DENVER | Colorado workers and business owners may soon benefit from two economic recovery packages: a $1.9 trillion federal package that cleared Congress Wednesday and a $700 million proposal announced by state leaders the same day.
Aurora Congressman Jason Crow joined Democratic colleagues in a party-line vote Wednesday to send the enormous federal stimulus package to President Joe Biden for his signature.
The long-awaited American Rescue Plan includes direct payments of $1,400 to many residents, along with tens of billions in housing assistance, and extends $300 per week emergency unemployment benefits into early September. Read The Associated Press’s full coverage of the stimulus package here.
Colorado would net almost $8 billion from that package. Biden is expected to sign the bill.
Crow said in an emailed statement that the package “will help us more quickly get shots into arms, children safely back into schools, businesses reopened, and Americans back to work. This will help make the difference between a summer that looks close to normal or more months of pain and suffering.”
Almost $2 billion of those dollars would help replenish the Colorado state legislature’s budget — used for everything from health care subsidies to roads and schools.
Lawmakers slashed more than $3 billion, mostly in funding for schools and colleges last year, as the pandemic-induced recession played out.
But amid a sunnier economic picture, Gov. Jared Polis and legislature leadership announced a $700 million economic recovery plan in a news conference Wednesday.
Polis and Republican officials said the colossal legislative package would likely enjoy broad, bipartisan support.
The package would be deeper than previous, short-term stimulus efforts largely targeted to help businesses and workers stay afloat, Polis said.
“This is about empowering the people of Colorado to get ahead,” Polis said.
Officials said they’ll focus on a wide range of initiatives, from infrastructure and housing to clean energy and workforce development.
In the small business proposals, restaurants would be able to retain their sales tax under one part of the package. Lawmakers would also put $10-15 million more into the Energize Colorado Gap Fund, which gives one-time grants to business owners with less than 25 employees.
They also plan to spend $3-5 million more on arts and culture organizations suffering through the continued pandemic.
The proposal also includes spending about $170 million on “shovel ready” road infrastructure projects in scenic corridors across the state and on Interstate 70 in the Denver metroplex. They plan to spend $60-80 million to “create more sustainable affordable housing in urban areas” like Aurora.
And lawmakers plan to push millions of dollars into established workforce development programs designed to help people “who haven’t shared in the state’s economic recovery and growth” to pivot or “get back on their feet,” said Rep. Daneya Esgar (D-Pueblo).
Other plans include spending $30-40 million to finance existing clean energy projects; up to $9 million for mental health screenings in schools, a priority for Aurora Rep. Dafna Michaelson-Jenet; and up to $15 million to facilitate a “just transition” for coal workers into other industries.
Polis and lawmakers rolled out the package with leading Republican lawmakers, who applauded Democrats for bipartisan efforts.
Speaker of the House Alec Garnett (D-Denver) said lawmakers “will get into the details” during the continued legislative session and announce the plans when they’re concrete.