Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Bills Prioritize Personal and Economic Support for Vulnerable Communities

Three critical bills for Coloradans passed the Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee on Wednesday. These bills use funds from the federal CARES Act to provide direct relief to Coloradans for housing assistance, utilities, mental health, and substance abuse treatment. These bills now move to the  Senate Appropriations Committee.

“By working swiftly, we hope to prevent unprecedented displacement and economic hardship in our communities,” said Sen. Rachel Zenzinger (D-Arvada). “These bills direct federal funds toward assistance in housing and utility services, translating into direct relief for Coloradans impacted by the coronavirus.”

Colorado State Capitol. Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

HB20-1410 COVID-19 Relief Funds for Housing Cash Assistance

Sponsors: Sens. Gonzales, Zenzinger

To prevent further housing insecurity for both renters and homeowners in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, direct relief is critical for the economic security of Colorado families. This bill provides $20 million in direct rental and mortgage assistance to Coloradans experiencing a financial need during these turbulent times, including $350,000 for legal aid for renters at risk of eviction.

“Colorado was already facing a housing and eviction crisis, and COVID has only magnified it,” said Sen. Julie Gonzales (D-Denver). “Allocating these funds to direct relief for tenants and eviction defense now is a critical step to mitigating unprecedented displacement.”

HB20-1412 Coronavirus Relief Funds for Utilities

Sponsors: Sens. Story, Zenzinger

While most utilities have implemented moratoriums on utility disconnections, these don’t address the hardship that families will face once they’re lifted. To provide direct financial assistance to families, the bill allocates $10 million to the Energy Outreach Colorado Low-Income Energy Assistance Fund, which helps low-income Coloradans at risk of service shutoffs.

“Many unemployed Coloradans will face hefty bills and fines once utility suspension shut-offs begin again,” said Sen. Tammy Story (D-Golden). “Without direct relief, vulnerable communities are facing significant stress and uncertainty due to COVID-19. Allocating these dollars to utility assistance helps build economic security so our state can begin to rebuild.”

HB20-1411 COVID-19 Relief Funds for Mental Health, Substance Abuse Treatment

Sponsors: Sens. Pettersen, Fields

The need for behavioral health services is compounded by COVID-19 and the challenges Colorado’s communities are facing because of it. HB-1411 allocates $15 million to critical mental health programs and substance abuse treatment within the Colorado Department of Human Services and the Department of Public Health and Environment.

“It’s critical for us to recognize that our state’s mental health and substance abuse treatment programs are contending with two concurrent public health crises: opioid addiction and COVID,” said Sen. Brittany Pettersen (D-Lakewood). “As these issues continue to compound, we must allocate funds to these services to address increased costs, and meet critical and growing community needs.

“Our state was already struggling with a growing mental health crisis, and COVID has just compounded these pressing needs,” said Asst. Majority Leader Sen. Rhonda Fields (D-Aurora). We have to protect and prioritize funding for Colorado’s mental health resources, and this legislation helps us achieve that.”

These bills now move to Senate Appropriations.