By Rachel Wall
I thought things couldn’t get worse when Colorado suddenly shut down on March 24 with little directive from the government on how to proceed. Now, when our government has the opportunity to help its citizens, our senator, Cory Gardner, continues to let us down by not pushing for the next COVID relief bill, the HEROES Act.
As over 1,700 Coloradans have died from this disease, Coloradans are in desperate need of legislation that will provide better testing and more relief.
As a baker and ice cream shop kitchen manager, I knew my livelihood was at stake when we had to close for dine-in service. I was terrified of what would happen to our business. Then the next day, I began experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, and I was unable to get tested. With no chance of diagnosis in sight and no sense of when I’d be back to work I felt lost — and completely abandoned by my government in more ways than one.
Although my doctor presumed I was COVID-19 positive from my shortness of breath, fever, cough and proximity to my sister, who was also presumed positive for COVID-19, she talked me out of trying to get tested, because they were low on kits and she believed testing wouldn’t change anything about my course of treatment. I visited an urgent care two days later when my cough worsened and blood pressure rose, but they didn’t have enough tests either and were saving the ones they had for patients admitted to the hospital. I was tested for “everything else” to rule out any other respiratory infection, then sent home to my studio apartment with my husband. I ran a fever for 15 days and developed bacterial pneumonia. I had numerous telemedicine visits and two trips to urgent care over a four-week span. At no point during any of it was I able to get tested for COVID-19.
I missed almost four weeks of work. When I did return, I had to work partial shifts for three more weeks due to ongoing fatigue and shortness of breath. I am still just grateful I had a job to go back to. Even though we were fortunate to receive a PPP loan, which allowed us to keep employees on payroll, our Denver business took a sharp hit those first couple of weeks, and we didn’t know how much business we would continue to lose in the coming months and year. Many Colorado businesses weren’t as lucky as us to receive a PPP loan. Most small business owners of our community restaurants have to personally guarantee their leases, so if their businesses go bankrupt, then they personally go bankrupt. On top of that, many unemployed restaurant workers accepted for the unemployment program are experiencing zero relief due to program overload, causing up to six weeks of backup.
I look around my community and I see Coloradans scared and hurting, just like me. Small businesses everywhere are trying their hardest to navigate this crisis and safely continue to serve the communities they love. But instead of helping us, Gardner has failed to push for meaningful financial relief and increased testing available through the House relief package, the HEROES Act. Gardner hides behind Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who said the package is dead on arrival in the Senate.
Without this package, the restaurant industry will continue to collapse — causing the whole system to collapse, from suppliers and factory jobs to greatly reduced sales tax revenue for education budgets. This legislation would help Colorado citizens and businesses get back on their feet, and we need action from Gardner to pressure party leadership for relief that prioritizes his constituents.
Coloradans are in dire need of relief, and that’s what the HEROES Act provides. With trillions of dollars for state and local governments, hazard pay for essential workers, another round of direct payments to Americans, funds for testing and tracing, and food and housing assistance, this package should be a no-brainer. This legislation would further increase testing so others like me can know for sure whether they’ve contracted COVID-19 and can prevent further spread through tracing. It would also give stability to Coloradans across the state who don’t know if their jobs will exist or to what extent in the next few months and help businesses, including the shop I work at, continue to keep employees on staff if sales decline.
Senator Gardner, it’s time to stand up for Coloradans. You are responsible to take care of your constituents, not the whims of party leadership, and you must push for more relief. We won’t forget your actions during this pandemic the next time we go to the ballot box.
Rachel Wall is a baker in Denver.