Rep. Dylan Roberts: A successful special session
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
Last week, I returned to the State Capitol to do my job as your representative and was proud to support bipartisan legislation to give relief to our communities during this time of need. I wish we could say the same about our U.S. Congress.
Unfortunately, the coronavirus is surging through our state and country right now, taking an immeasurable toll on our health, our economy and our health care system. In a time of crisis such as this, it is natural to look toward the federal government — our Congress and president — for relief.
In March, those leaders stepped up and passed the bipartisan CARES Act, which infused stimulus dollars into people’s bank accounts, expanded unemployment benefits, gave businesses access to grants and loans, supported our hospitals and health care workers and a whole lot more. But, that was in March, and those funds have run out just as the virus has reached its most viral and deadliest period yet.
Our U.S. Congress and its leaders in both parties have been locked in a partisan stalemate for several months, and they have utterly failed to find common ground to pass a new relief package. The idea that we would enter the holiday season, and soon the middle of the winter season, without federal relief, as this virus and economic fallout worsens, is unthinkable — yet here we are.
Hope is not lost in Colorado, however. Just last week, your Colorado General Assembly was called back for a special session — special because we do not normally meet outside the normal January to May legislative session — to consider a package of relief bills for our state’s residents and businesses.
In just three days at the Capitol in Denver, we were able to put partisan differences aside and unite around 10 bills — all with bipartisan support — and send them to the governor’s desk. Here is a recap of the legislation we passed and a description of the funding that will be deployed to our communities in the coming weeks:
• We passed two bills that will directly assist our state’s struggling small businesses. Senate Bill 1 allocated $57 million for direct cash assistance to restaurants, retailers, gyms, event and art venues and other businesses. House Bill 4 will allow restaurants and bars to retain sales tax dollars that they normally pay to the state.
• As Coloradans lose their jobs or have their hours cut, housing, utility and food costs become a major concern; that is why we passed Senate Bill 2, which allocates $60 million in housing assistance for both tenants and landlords; Senate Bill 3, which increases funding for utility bill aid; and House Bill 3, which gives $5 million to food banks across the state.
• During this pandemic, we have seen child care facilities struggle to stay open, so we passed House Bill 2, which grants $45 million to child care operators so that they can stay open and provide parents the help they need to return to work. Speaking of our kids, we also passed House Bill 1, which gives our school districts $20 million to deploy broadband to more students and teachers to facilitate online learning for those who were struggling with internet connectivity.
• Finally, we were able to replenish our state’s public health disaster emergency fund with $100 million. This crucial fund is how the state provides services like COVID testing, alternate care sites if our hospitals fill up, support for frontline workers, the distribution of the COVID vaccine and much more.
Let me be clear, these bills will not be a silver bullet and provide all the relief that every person and business needs. However, I am confident that we did everything we could on a state level, while following our budgetary rules (we have a balanced budget requirement, Congress does not), to help Coloradans in this extraordinary time of need. We head back to the State Capitol for the new legislative session in January, and I will stand ready to do my job to help our communities once more — whether or not Congress has done their job yet or not.
My thoughts are with all those who are struggling right now, and I share my gratitude for everyone working so hard in Routt County to keep us safe and healthy, teach our kids, keep our economy running as best as possible and much more. If I can be of assistance in any way, please do not hesitate to contact me on my cell at 970-846-3054 or via e-mail at Dylan.Roberts.House@state.co.us.
State Rep. Dylan Roberts represents House District 26, encompassing Eagle and Routt counties, in the Colorado House of Representatives.
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