Arapahoe County announced in early January that small businesses affected by the pandemic can apply to receive “direct relief payments” as part of a relief program approved by the state Legislature last month.

The state’s program, part of a package of 10 bills generally aimed at helping Colorado’s economic recovery amid the pandemic, provided $37 million in relief to small businesses with revenue of less than $2.5 million, $7.5 million to arts and cultural organizations, and $4 million to minority-owned businesses. Those measures came via state Senate Bill 20B-001.

Arapahoe County applied for part of that relief funding and was allocated $4 million, according to a Jan. 14 letter to the county from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs. Eligible businesses can apply for funding until Jan. 31, a county news release said.

Funds will be allocated to restaurants, bars, caterers, movie theaters, gyms and recreation centers that meet specific eligibility requirements, according to the county news release.

The program includes the following guidelines:

• Businesses that previously received 2020 federal CARES Act funding are not eligible.

• The maximum amount of funding a business can receive is $7,000. If application demand is greater than the funding received, the county will prioritize funding for eligible small businesses with receipts of less than $500,000, followed by those with receipts between $500,000 and $1 million.

Small businesses should prepare to apply by reviewing the sample application and all program requirements here.

The requirements specify that businesses who apply for the more general small-business funding “cannot also receive funding from (the) ‘Arts Relief Program’ or the ‘Minority Owned Business Relief Program’ established by (Senate Bill) 20B-001.”

Minority business program modified

In light of a court challenge preventing the release of at least some of the state’s funds, the state Legislature retooled the minority-owned business relief program. The new bill instead targets “disproportionately impacted business,” a term that in the bill means a business that has been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and meets any of the following criteria:

• Has five or fewer employees, including the business owner;

• Is a minority-owned business;

• Is located in an “economically distressed area,” a government term explained in the bill;

• The business owner lives in an economically distressed area;

• The business owner has low or moderate income, as determined by the Colorado Office of Economic Development;

• The business owner has low or moderate personal wealth, based on household net worth as determined by the office;

• Or the business owner has had “diminished opportunities to access capital or credit.”

The state House on Jan. 15 passed the revision, state Senate Bill 21-001, by a vote of 47-16, according to a news release by House Democrats. Read the bill on the Legislature’s website here.

For minority-owned businesses, accumulating capital, purchasing property and starting a business have “always been” more difficult due to the long-lasting impacts of discriminatory systems that are “only exacerbated by the pandemic,” the news release from House Democrats argued.

“These disparities are the result of generations of discrimination through laws and practices that restrict employment and housing opportunities and limit access to loans and banking, practices which continue today,” the release continued. 

The Legislature approved the relief package of 10 bills on Dec. 2 at the end of a three-day special session that Gov. Jared Polis called amid continued stalls in Congress of further relief.

In addition to the usual, 120-day regular legislative session — the part of the year in winter and spring when state lawmakers pass bills — the state Legislature can also conduct business in special sessions such as the one seen last month.

The governor can call a special session or the Legislature can call itself into special session as provided for in the Colorado Constitution, according to a fact sheet from the Legislature’s Office of Legislative Legal Services.