Vail Town Council, state and federal legislators talk about emergency funding
More federal funding is coming, but will probably be exhausted quickly
The first round of funding under the federal Paycheck Protection Program went in about two weeks. A second round is expected to be snapped up just as quickly.
The Second Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives includes roughly the eastern half of the Vail Valley. Second District Rep. Joe Neguse on Tuesday gave the Vail Town Council an update on the program, and efforts to refund it as the COVID-19 virus pandemic lingers in the U.S.
Neguse said that the second round of funding will contain some “fixes” to the program, either through regulation or legislation.
Neguse said in addition to the PPP loans and grants, there has been a drive to refresh funds available in the Small Business Administration’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program.
The second round of PPP funding will also include funding for community banks, as well as funding for COVID-19 testing.
Federal funds are essential
Those federal efforts will be essential to both state and local government moving forward. That’s especially true in Colorado, which by law must pass a balanced budget every year.
State Sen. Kerry Donovan of Vail, who represents Eagle County, told council members that the state is looking at a large loss in revenue from all sources. One of the biggest hits will come from taxes levied on oil and gas exploration. Donovan said current estimates indicate the state this year could lose between $2.5 billion and $3 billion in revenue just from the oil and gas industry. Donovan said estimates indicate a total revenue decline of up to $7 billion over three years.
That’s going to affect essential operations at the state level, Donovan said. That’s what makes federal aid essential, she added.
Getting the revenue streams rolling again is going to require both an economic recovery and marketing to some of Colorado’s core guest groups.
Rep. Dylan Roberts, who represents Eagle and Routt counties in the Colorado House of Representatives, is on a legislative committee working on economic stabilization as the state gradually reopens. Donovan is also on that committee.
Attracting guests again
Councilmember Jenn Bruno asked Roberts and Donovan if there’s a way to push the state’s tourism promotion group to focus on in-state travel as resort areas gradually re-open.
“We should,” Roberts said, adding that there’s still concern right now about bringing Front Range residents into the mountains.
Councilmember Brian Stockmar also asked about bringing guests back to the High Country, particularly since those flying into Eagle County tend to stay longer and spend more money while they’re here.
“We’ll have to double down on reaching out to Mexico,” Donovan said. Given that Vail was one of the state’s COVID-19 hot spots, Donovan said it’s going to take some effort to convince potential visitors they can still count on Colorado’s mountains as a good place to visit.
Donovan, Roberts and Neguse all urged council members and local residents to continue to reach out to them.
“I know you have some of the best handles on issues affecting our main streets,” Donovan said, adding that’s how state and federal officials will learn about gaps in current state and federal programs. Donovan noted that state government will be asked to fill gaps that federal programs can’t address.
Donovan also urged town officials to keep meticulous records on how money is spent from state, and particularly federal, programs.
“You have to be able to prove expenses are for COVID-19,” Donvan said. “Accounting will be really important.”
But, Roberts noted, state funding, while important, isn’t endless.
“We don’t have a pool of untapped money we can use,” he said.
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.