‘Colorado Comeback’ stimulus update: State bills close to passing

    BRIEF

    Alec Garnett
    Colorado House Speaker Alec Garnett speaks at a news conference announcing a state stimulus plan March 10, 2021. (Faith Miller/Colorado Newsline)

    Colorado leaders on May 25 announced a vague plan for allocating $3.8 billion in federal economic stimulus money, which the state received from coronavirus relief legislation Congress passed in March.

    But first things first. Besides that $3.8 billion from the feds, lawmakers have another $800 million worth of state money, largely from surplus income and sales tax revenue, that they’ve been working to dole out as part of the ‘Colorado Comeback’ stimulus plan announced in March.

    Here are just a few of the bills from the state stimulus plan that are close to becoming law.

    • Senate Bill 21-252 would establish a $65 million grant program focused on “community revitalization.” It would help for-profit companies, nonprofits and local governments pay for building or redeveloping commercial centers. The funds would be prioritized for projects that facilitated a creative mix of uses — such as live-work spaces for artists, performance spaces and community event venues.

    Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg, D-Boulder, and Senate Minority Leader Chris Holbert, D-Douglas County, along with Reps. Brianna Titone, D-Arvada, and Susan Lontine, D-Denver, are sponsoring SB-252. The bill was approved May 28 by the House Appropriations Committee, and it’s up for debate in the full House chamber.

    House Bill 21-1265 would extend sales tax relief that passed during the General Assembly’s December 2020 special session focused on COVID-19 response. Under that legislation, restaurants and bars could apply up to $2,030 in sales tax relief to as many as five locations a month. That relief lasted through February.

    HB-1265 would extend the relief through August and expand it to caterers, food service contractors, and hotel food and drink services. Sponsored by Reps. Kyle Mullica, D-Northglenn, and Kevin Van Winkle, R-Highlands Ranch, along with Sens. Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood, and Rob Woodward, R-Loveland, the bill would cost the state $45 million. It passed the Senate Finance Committee on May 17 and was referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

    House Bill 21-1264 would provide $25 million to the Colorado Workforce Development Council for grants to local workforce boards. This would go toward training for unemployed workers to help them find a job, as well as for employed people hoping to learn new skills that could help them earn better pay or move to a new industry.

    The bill’s sponsors include Reps. Tom Sullivan, D-Centennial, and Mary Young, D-Greeley; along with Sens. Chris Kolker, D-Centennial, and Dennis Hisey, R-Fountain. On May 12, lawmakers on the Senate Business, Labor, and Technology Committee advanced HB-1264 to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

    Senate Bill 21-231 would transfer $3 million to the Colorado Energy Office’s Weatherization Assistance Program. The program helps low-income Coloradans improve their homes’ efficiency to reduce energy costs.

    Sens. Tammy Story, D-Conifer, and Hisey are sponsoring SB-231 with Reps. Edie Hooton, D-Boulder, and Mike Weissman, D-Aurora. The bill made it out of the House Appropriations Committee on May 28, and it’s up for debate soon in the House chamber.

    • Senate Bill 21-239 would require the 2-1-1 Colorado hotline to provide callers with referrals to behavioral health services, such as community mental health centers that can provide affordable therapy. It seeks to ensure the staff taking calls from people who may have mental illnesses or substance use disorders receive specialized training. The bill would cost around $1 million.

    Sponsored by Sens. Kolker and Rachel Zenzinger, D-Arvada, along with Reps. Judy Amabile, D-Arvada, and Young, SB-239 was advanced by the House Appropriations Committee on May 28 and awaits a vote in the House.