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Roberts: Lifelines for small businesses

Here in our mountain communities, small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy. The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic fallout has been hard on every single one of us and especially challenging for our small businesses and their employees. Too many people have lost their jobs and sadly too many businesses have shut their doors or are barely getting by.

Disagreements over aide for businesses and the unemployed have left Washington D.C. mired in gridlock, but the Colorado legislature stepped up. When we returned to the Capitol in Denver earlier this summer we put partisanship aside and passed several key bills that are going to help small businesses and workers across the state.

First, we passed a bipartisan bill that created the Energize Colorado Gap Fund, which will provide more than $25 million in small business loans and grants for small businesses. The application for that fund opened on Monday. Through this fund, small businesses, sole proprietors, and nonprofits with less than 25 full-time employees can apply for up to a $15,000 grant and a $20,000 loan for a combined total of $35,000 in financial assistance.

In addition, the state legislature and our private sector partners made sure that the application is quick and does not require a close relationship with a bank, unlike the federal relief programs, in order to qualify.  Apply today at: energizecolorado.com/gap-fund.

In addition to the Energize Colorado fund, I am also pleased to report back about several bills that passed and were signed into law by the governor of which I was the lead sponsor. Even better, these were ideas that were brought to me from small business owners and leaders right here in Eagle County.

My first bill of the 2020 legislative session was to extend and expand the Rural Jump-Start Program; it incentivizes small businesses to open their doors and hire employees in rural counties across Colorado. The program grants performance-based tax credits that benefit both the business owner and employees. After passing both chambers of the legislature with bipartisan votes, the governor signed the bill into law — which will extend the program for five more years and also loosen the qualification requirements so that more parts of the state are eligible. Find out more on how to qualify at choosecolorado.com/rural-jump-start-program.

Another bill I was proud to author and get passed was an idea I heard from numerous restaurant owners throughout my district: the ability for restaurants to continue selling to-go and delivery alcoholic beverages with their food. This extra revenue has been a lifesaver for so many local restaurants during the COVID pandemic, and the bipartisan bill extends this crucial tool until July 2021. We will be looking to extend that date even further next year.

As we all know, child care is too expensive in our mountain communities, but child care businesses can also be an important job creator for our local economies. Last year, a local couple facing a barrier while opening up another home child care business approached several other local officials and me and inspired us to act. The ability for homeowners associations to prohibit home child care businesses without cause, even if they complied with all HOA rules, was arbitrarily preventing businesses and childcare spots from opening in our communities. So, I got to work and wrote a bill to change the law, secured bipartisan sponsors, and got the legislation passed.

Another one of my bills was an idea that Eagle County Treasurer Teak Simonton approached me with shortly after COVID-19 hit Colorado. I worked with them and my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to write HB1421. The bill allows counties to reduce or waive interest penalties on property tax payments in 2020 to help individuals and businesses that have been hit hard by the loss of revenue. This bill passed unanimously and was signed into law in June.

I will be the first to acknowledge that these pieces of legislation and new programs will not be the sole reason that our economy begins to recover. Undoubtedly, these tough times will continue and it will take the hard work and creativity of the private sector, government, and many others working together to rebuild.

However, I believe that as your state legislator, I have a duty to help however I can through legislation that creates new programs, changes laws, and eliminates burdens. Unlike our U.S. Congress, the Colorado legislature demonstrated a willingness to put partisanship aside and focus on helping our small businesses, workers, and economy in the midst of these unprecedented times.

If you need assistance in accessing the Energize Colorado Fund, unemployment insurance, or anything else, please contact me anytime on my cell: 970-846-3054 or e-mail at Dylan.Roberts.House@state.co.us.


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