DENVER (CBS4) – Colorado state lawmakers returned to the State Capitol building Monday on a mission to distribute about $300 million in three days to those hardest hit by COVID-19. They dropped 37 bills that cover everything from shielding businesses from civil liability in COVID-related lawsuits to prohibiting government from shutting down small businesses while allowing chain retailers to stay open even though they both sell the same products or services.
“If big box stay open, you got to let mom and pop open,” said Republican Senator and small business owner Rob Woodward.
He’s sponsoring the bill that he says is about fairness.
“They’re being discriminated against just because of their size,” Woodward said.
Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg says the bill would hurt more than help.
“I don’t think right to counter to what health experts are telling us to do,” said Fenberg.
While the scope of the bills introduced is broad, Fenberg says, the scope of the special session is narrow and Woodward’s bill, he says, falls outside of that.
“The whole point is to this out the door for businesses to use immediately.”
Two bills, he says, meet that criteria. One bill, by Democratic Rep. Alex Valdez and Republican Rep. Kevin Van Winkle, allows small businesses to keep up to $2,000/month in sales tax revenue. Another measure by Democratic Sen. Faith Hill and Republican Sen. Kevin Priola waives license fees and provides $48 million in grants to arts organizations and small businesses, especially those businesses that are minority owned.
Fenberg said, “We’re going to get this bill done in the next 72 hours. Then things are going to start being put into motion to efficiently get that money out the door.”
Woodward says allowing businesses to make their own money would help too.
“Give them the tools to make sure it’s a safe environment, but don’t take away the waitress’ only income for her kids right now for the holidays.”
Fenberg says only eight bills will pass. Most of them are focused on distributing grants including $20 million for schools with poor internet, $45 million for child care providers, $50 million to help people with rent, $5 million to help with utilities and $3 million to help food pantries.
The grant money goes to counties where people can apply for it. The goal is to distribute all of the money by the end of the year.
The special session is expected to end Wednesday.