Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signs bills to provide additional coronavirus relief
PUEBLO — Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed a slew of bills Monday aimed at sharing federal CARES Act dollars and bringing coronavirus pandemic relief to Coloradans as he urged residents to “build on the success” the state is seeing to avoid a virus resurgence that could hurt the economy.
During a brief teleconference with The Pueblo Chieftain Monday, Polis said he soon will sign health care legislation that will offer a 26 percent reduction in insurance premiums for residents and also pave the way for “absolutely critical access to telehealth and telemedicine” consultations that will prevent residents having to go out for routine health care.
“We need to build on the success. If there is a virus resurgence, it will hurt the economy,” Polis said.
“We need to continue to wear masks in public and maintain social distancing so we don’t experience growth” in coronavirus cases, he said.
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Joining the governor on the teleconference was Sen. Leroy Garcia, D-Pueblo.
In terms of the state’s economy, Garcia said state sales tax income is rebounding and “things are moving up. The trends are better.”
However, “the fiscal challenges next year will be much more significant when it comes to budget issues,” Garcia said.
The bills Polis signed Monday will provide $20 million in housing assistance to help renters and homeowners unable to make payments; and $20 million for small businesses, especially rural businesses that have not previously received Payroll Protection Plan dollars as well as those that are veteran, minority or women-owned.
Another $5 million was earmarked for basic utility services for those financially impacted by the pandemic.
Polis also signed bills that provide additional behavioral health care dollars to assist those facing substance abuse and domestic violence issues; funding for unemployment, which is at a record level in the state; and paid sick leave for hourly workers.
The sick leave bill would provide up to six days of earned sick leave for workers as they clock more hours.
“We want you to stay at home so you don’t have to choose between putting food on the table and infecting your fellow workers. We want people to feel confident they are entering a workplace that is not going to make them sick,” said Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg, D-Boulder.
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Another bill provides funding to the 211 helpline program, which people can call to get help connecting to the financial resources available in their areas.
House District 46 Rep. Daneya Esgar, D-Pueblo, co-sponsored a bill that Polis signed at an early Monday outdoor gathering that provides for food pantry assistance.
“So many people have relied on our food pantries and we want to make sure they can get food from Colorado farmers and ranchers,” Polis said.
“We want to make sure there is enough food and healthy food for people to access during this crisis,” Esgar said.
Garcia also said the 2020 legislative session was “unprecedented.” He said of the bills that passed this session, 97 percent had bipartisan support and will help families, small businesses and many others impacted by the pandemic.
He also pointed to the sweeping police reform bill that is “the first in the nation” to be signed into law since the May 25 tragic homicide of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minnesota. That bill mandates body camera use and prohibits the use of chokeholds.
Chieftain and Pueblo West View reporter Tracy Harmon can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or at https://twitter.com/tracywumps. Help support local journalism by subscribing to the Chieftain at https://chieftain.com/subscribenow
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