By Anica Padilla

(CBS4) — Business owners in northern Colorado are asking Gov. Jared Polis to end the enhanced federal unemployment benefit of $300 a week, saying they have jobs they can’t fill. On Wednesday, Gov. Polis said he would prefer to spend the federal funding in other ways — but said it’s still “free money” that is being pumped into Colorado’s businesses.

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A group of more than 100 business owners in northern Colorado sent a letter to Gov. Polis, saying the extra weekly payments are disincentivizing people to go back to work, and causing a shortage of workers.

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“I wish that we could use the money for something else, but this is $600 to $800 million that the federal government is pumping into Colorado,” Gov. Polis said.

Polis said the weekly payments are temporary and helping businesses in Colorado.

“This current money is only here for another month, but if we cut it off, it would be less money for our retail businesses, for our stores,” Polis said Wednesday.

Right now, the enhanced unemployment is set to end Sept. 6.

“Yeah, it’s only six weeks but those six weeks matter in the life of a business,” said Pete Gazlay, owner of Total Facility Care in Loveland.

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Polis argued that there is no other way the state is allowed to spend the federal funds.

“It is, if you will, free money from the federal government. I think that writing a check back to them and returning it would be very short sighted economically for our state,” he added.

More than two dozen other states have ended the enhanced unemployment benefit.

Mindy McCloughan, CEO of the Loveland Chamber of Commerce, says the longer businesses can’t find workers, the longer the economic recovery will take — suggesting the short-term gains will cause long-term issues.

“While it did stimulate the economy, it has yielded some unintended consequences that we’re going to be paying for a long, long, long time,” said McCloughan.

“But that’s what was in the law,” Polis said. “And yes, we want that money coming to Colorado. It’s supported for our small businesses and people have the ability to go out and eat and shop and enjoy everything that Colorado has to offer.”

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Anica Padilla