(CBS4) – State Rep. Alex Valdez serves Colorado’s 5th district, which has the highest concentration of bars and restaurants in the state. Valdez said he feels their pain as they struggle to stay open amid the coronavirus pandemic. He too is a small business owner.
After building Ecomark Solar over ten years, Valdez had to furlough 10 percent of his workforce last week. He fears the situation will only get worse.
“So many businesses in Colorado, small businesses rely on their customers’ ability to get loans. And if that goes away then we have a whole other problem,” said Valdez.
Valdez plans to be the voice of struggling small business owners when he returns to work at the state Capitol. He won’t be alone.
“Two weeks ago we were part of a booming economy,” said State Sen. Rob Woodward, who represents Senate District 15.
Woodward owns 50 fast food restaurants that employ 500 people. He said overnight he’s gone into survival mode and already closed four restaurants.
“We saw many restaurants lose 80 percent of their sales in a week,” said Woodward. “The thing that keeps me up at night is how to keep as many people as possible on payrolls.”
Woodward said some of those who have been laid off are being told unemployment checks won’t arrive for weeks. He plans to change that when the legislative session resumes.
“Its not fair for those folks to have to wait six weeks in some cases to get that first check, if they were counting on a paycheck in two weeks,” said Woodward.
Valdez is also looking at legislation to help laid off workers by helping their employers.
“We really have to look at how do we lower barriers first of all so businesses can operate at a lower cost.. so bring people back.”
While state lawmakers can help with regulations, they can’t help with stimulus money. Unlike the federal government, the state has to balance its budget and it has taken a big hit in the last couple of weeks.
Valdez and Woodward say one of the most promising lifelines for businesses right now is a provision in the Cares Act passed by Congress. It incentivizes businesses to keep employees on their payroll instead of unemployment insurance until the worst of the virus is over. The Paycheck Protection Program loans businesses money, and if they give their employees for at least 8 weeks, they don’t have to repay the loan. Woodward says he’s hoping to secure a loan so he can reopen the restaurants he’s closed and rehire workers.