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Politics and Government

State stimulus tracker: We’re keeping tabs on Colorado lawmakers’ $800 million coronavirus aid package

The spending affects everything from transportation projects to mental health initiatives and helping the agriculture sector deal with drought

Colorado lawmakers meet in the state Senate on Thursday, May 28, 2020. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)
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Colorado lawmakers have set aside $800 million for a stimulus package aimed at helping propel the Centennial State’s economy beyond the coronavirus pandemic. 

The one-time spending is made possible by better-than-expected tax revenue over the past year. In anticipation of a worse economic downturn, lawmakers had previously slashed this year’s budget, leading to the current surprise surplus.

The money is being distributed through individual bills that make up the broader package, and many measures have already been introduced. They represent tens of millions of dollars in spending on everything from transportation projects to mental health initiatives and helping the agriculture sector deal with drought. A number of other bills are still pending.

The Colorado Sun is tracking the legislation — and the associated spending — as it’s introduced and will note if and when bills are signed into law:

(Last updated at 1:15 p.m. on May 3, 2021)


Education

Senate Bill 202 ($10 million) would fund grants for public school air quality improvement projects. The public school capital construction assistance board would distribute the money and prioritize projects based on matching funds.

Senate Bill 232 ($15 million) would support an existing Colorado Opportunity Scholarship Initiative grant program for workers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, including scholarships, career advising services, and workforce transition support at participating higher education institutions. 

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Senate Bill 236 ($13 million) would establish four new grant programs to support child care businesses and improve recruitment, retention and compensation for early childhood educators. Of the $13 million allocated by the bill, $8.8 million would be from state funds and $4.2 million would be federal funds.

House Bill 1104 (no appropriation) would extend the licensing period for professional educators from five to seven years. 

Environment

Senate Bill 230 ($40 million) would set aside funding for the Colorado Energy Office, including $30 million that would be sent to the nonprofit Colorado Clean Energy Fund, $5 million for the Charge Ahead Colorado Program centered around electric vehicles and $3 million for the Colorado New Energy Improvement District, which deals with financing clean energy projects. 

Senate Bill 231 ($3 million) would set aside money for the Colorado Weatherization Assistance program, which provides low-income households with money for insulation, furnace repair and replacement, and other home upgrades to maximize energy efficiency.

Senate Bill 240 ($15 million) would boost an existing Colorado Water Conservation Board grant program to protect watersheds from the impacts of wildfires. It also would set aside funding for a statewide watershed analysis of wildfire impacts. 

Senate Bill 258 ($30 million) would set aside money for wildfire mitigation on federal lands with an emphasis on workforce development and cross-boundary coordination efforts.

House Bill 1149 ($14,357) would require the creation of an energy sector career pathway by the 2022-23 academic year. The Workforce Development Council, Office of Economic Development and International Trade, departments of Higher Education, Education, Natural Resources, and Labor and Employment, and the community college system would all be a part of the effort.

House Bill 1253 ($5 million) would set aside money for the Department of Local Affairs for grants for renewable and clean energy infrastructure projects. Communities currently lacking in clean energy infrastructure would be prioritized for the dollars.

The Fox Theater in Montrose is closed as life in Colorado shuts down in response to the new coronavirus. (William Woody, Special to The Colorado Sun)

House Bill 1260 ($20 million) would allocate money toward the Colorado Water Conservation Board for the state’s water plan. Of the funds, $15 million would be transferred to the water plan implementation cash fund and $5 million would be transferred to the water supply reserve fund.

Employment and business

Senate Bill 203 ($2.5 million) would provide money to the Colorado Department of Agriculture for its Colorado Proud program, which aims to educate consumers on how to shop, find, and purchase Colorado agricultural products.

COVID-19 IN COLORADO

The latest from the coronavirus outbreak in Colorado:

  • LIVE BLOG: The latest on closures, restrictions and other major updates.
  • MAP: Cases and deaths in Colorado.
  • TESTINGHere’s where to find a community testing site. The state is now encouraging anyone with symptoms to get tested.
  • VACCINE HOTLINE: Get up-to-date information.
  • STORYColorado coronavirus cases are rising, especially among people under 18, as hospitalizations spike as well

>> FULL COVERAGE

Senate Bill 204 ($5 million) would set aside money for an existing state grant program, called Rural Economic Development Initiative, to help create new jobs in rural communities.

Senate Bill 229 ($3 million) would set aside money for the rural jump-start zone grant program. Under the program, new businesses can receive up to $20,000 to establish operations in a rural community and up to $2,500 for each hire they make. Those grants double if the new business opens up in a coal-transition community.

Senate Bill 234 ($3 million) would set aside money to help Colorado’s agricultural section “anticipate, prepare for, mitigate, adapt to or respond to” drought.

Senate Bill 235 ($5 million) would set aside $3 million for Colorado’s agricultural-sector focused renewable energy and energy efficiency program. It also spends another $2 million on soil-health programs.

Senate Bill 241 ($1.65 million) would create a small business growth program through the Colorado Office of Economic Development to provide business-development support to small businesses with 19 or fewer employees. 

Senate Bill 252 ($65 million) would allocate grant money to finance the revitalization or creation of mixed-use commerce centers across Colorado. Eligible projects could include flexible live-work or vendor spaces for entrepreneurs, performance spaces, child care centers and meeting spaces for community events.

House Bill 1262 ($9 million) would provide $3.5 million to the National Western Stock Show — a staple for the state’s agricultural economy — as well as $3.5 million for the Colorado State Fair. Both events were hard hit by the pandemic. The legislation also sets aside $2 million for other agricultural events organizations across the state.

Work is underway at the National Western Stock Show complex grounds where construction will continue as new buildings are added and the historic stockyards will be moved north on April 5, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. The name will be changed to the National Western Center. (Kathryn Scott, Special to The Colorado Sun)

House Bill 1264 ($25 million) would spend $25 million to try to drive down the state’s unemployment rate by creating an initiative within the Colorado Workforce Development Council to reskill, upskill, and “next-skill” workers.

House Bill 1265 (no appropriation) would allow restaurants, bars, caterers and food service contractors to retain up to $70,000 in monthly sales taxes they collect in each June, July and August this year. It’s not clear how much tax revenue would be lost by the state under the proposal.

House Bill 1263 ($10 million) would create a new meeting and events incentive program in the Colorado Tourism Office to boost the events industry’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. The program would provide rebates of up to 10% of “hard costs” of holding an event, from weddings and large family reunions to conferences and festivals. Rebates of up to 25% are available for costs related to complying with coronavirus restrictions. 

House Bill 1270 ($3 million) would appropriate money to the Department of Human Services to seek a 50% match from the federal government for the Colorado Employment First Program within the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as SNAP. The money would be prioritized for employment support, job retention services and work-based learning opportunities.

Housing and human services

Senate Bill 239 ($1 million) would allocate money to expand Colorado’s 2-1-1 hotline where people can get referred to a wide array of services, including behavioral health assistance.

Senate Bill 242 ($15 million) would boost existing rental and tenancy support programs at the Colorado Department of Local Affairs’ Division of Housing, including grants and loans to help people temporarily find shelter at hotels and motels. The bill would also allow for rental and tenant support programs to help people experiencing homelessness. 

A large rent sign is posted on Dallas St. and E. Montview Blvd. advertising vacancies in an apartment building on January 27, 2021 in Aurora. (Kathryn Scott, Special to The Colorado Sun)

House Bill 1215 ($532,288) would expand the Justice Reinvestment Crime Prevention Initiative in the Department of Local Affairs into a statewide program and add a small business grant program for formerly incarcerated persons to the initiative. The program, established by 2017 legislation, funnels state savings from parole reform into community education grants and small business loans.

House Bill 1271 ($13 million) would create three programs in the Department of Local Affairs to offer grants and other assistance to local governments for the purpose of promoting affordable housing innovations. That includes $9.3 million to incentivize local governments to adopt affordable housing policies or regulatory tools; $2.1 million in grants for local governments to evaluate or revise policies, programs, land use codes, etc; and $1.6 million in competitive grant funding to municipalities for land use policy proposals. 

House Bill 1258 ($9 million) would provide any Coloradan 18 years old or younger with a free mental health screening and up to three, free subsequent visits with a therapist. It aims to help kids prepare to return to in-person learning after the pandemic upended two academic years. Read more here

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