DENVER (CBS4) – Six new state laws will provide tens of millions of dollars in aid to Coloradans who are struggling to make ends meet. The state received about $1.7 billion in federal CARES Act money.
A billion of that went to education. Local governments and public health and safety also received funding.
The legislature had discretion over $70 million and passed a package of COVID-19 relief bills. Gov. Jared Polis signed six of those bills into law Monday.
“This started as public health crisis we realize very quickly turned into economic crisis,” Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg said at the bill signing.
For those who can’t pay rent or mortgage, the legislature put $20 million in a housing assistance fund. There’s $5 million to help with utilities and $500,000 for food pantries.
“No one should ever go to bed hungry,” said Rep. Lisa Cutter.
Lawmakers also set aside money for health care including $1.5 million for rural providers, $2 million for immunization outreach, $5 million for telehealth and $15 million for substance abuse and mental health treatment.
Sen. Brittany Pettersen said, “Early data shows we’ve seen a 50% increase overdose deaths and increase suicides.”
Domestic violence is also up and there’s now an additional $500,000 for prevention. There’s even additional money to help make sure people can access all the money available.
“One great way to get access to that is call 2-1-1. This is sort of piece of puzzle today that helps connect folks to resources we have put into place,” said Sen. Jeff Bridges.
Lawmakers gave $500,000 to expand the 211 hotline. They say calls for help are up nearly 200%.
The legislature set aside money as well to help small businesses, including $20 million in grants for those with less than 25 employees.
In addition to the funding bills, it also passed bills requiring paid sick leave, cracking down on price gouging and limiting debt collection.