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Members of the Colorado Black Democratic Legislative Caucus led the legislature in passing three bills in a special session called by an executive order from Governor Jared Polis to provide much needed economic relief for the Black community statewide.
Bill SB20B-001 (COVID-19 Relief Small and Minority Businesses Arts) aims to provide stimulus support to businesses and artists severely impacted by restrictions surrounding COVID-19. It was sponsored by Representative Leslie Herod (D-Denver). Senator Rhonda Fields (D-Aurora) sponsored SB20B-003 (Money for Energy Utility Bill Payment Assitance), which will provide additional funds to ensure that Coloradans can pay their utility bills. At the same time, Representative Tony Exum Sr. (D-Colorado Springs) ran SB20B-002 (Housing and Direct COVID Emergency Assistance), which creates the emergency direct assistance grant program give funds to those experiencing financial hardships as a result of the pandemic.
“Small businesses, minority-owned businesses, and artists in our state are suffering from a lack of support during one of the most trying economic crises in recent history,” said SB20B-001 sponsor Representative Leslie Herod (D-Denver). “The disproportionate impact of COVID-19 faced by artists and small/minority-owned businesses is a massive wrong that needs to be righted before they are forced to close for good,” Leslie said.
SB20B-001 would send a total of $57 million in direct aid, grants, and annual fee waivers to small businesses struggling, prioritizing those operating in counties that are experiencing capacity restrictions. This bill would also create grant programs that would allocate funds specifically for art and cultural organizations and minority-owned businesses.
SB20B-003 would appropriate $5 million to the Energy Outreach Colorado Low-Income Energy Assitance Fund to meet the 25 percent increase in applications that Energy Outreach Colorado has seen over the course of this year. Many Coloradans are facing unemployment as the state is experiencing a rise in cases, making it more difficult for them to pay their utilities in the coming months.
“As unemployment numbers remain high and federal resources continue to dwindle, many Coloradans are at risk of losing their utilities – a dangerous outcome in the winter months,” said SB20B-003 sponsor Senator Rhonda Fields (D- Aurora). “This bill will appropriate $5 million to the Energy Outreach Colorado Low-Income Energy Assistance Fund to meet the 25% increase in applications that Energy Outreach Colorado has seen this year,” Rhonda said.
SB20B-002 would provide $60 million for emergency housing assistance, which would go to landlords and households in financial need, with $1 million of the funding going to support the Eviction Legal Assitance Fund. It would benefit Black households more likely to experience eviction. This will work to provide relief for communities of color as winter approaches following COVID-19 case spikes.
“Thousands of Coloradans are struggling to pay their rent or mortgage and are facing agonizing decisions every day about which bills to pay and how to avoid being thrown out of their homes,” said SB20B-002 sponsor Rep. Tony Exum, Sr. (D-Colorado Springs). “This assistance will directly help the Coloradans who have been hit hardest by this pandemic, so they aren’t left behind as our state recovers,” Tony said.
For more information regarding the Colorado Black Democratic Legislative Caucus, visit: http://blackcaucusco.com