The Colorado COVID Relief Fund, announced by Gov. Jared Polis on March 18, had garnered about $3.8 million as of March 20, including roughly $318,000 dollars from more than 2,000 individual donors, Polis said.
It already boasted $2.8 million when it was announced, based largely on big-name donors such as the Denver Broncos and the Anschutz Family Foundation.
The fund aims to address numerous affected areas of life amid the spread of COVID-19, including helping small businesses and affected workers, and even supporting technology that helps Coloradans connect to each other — for working from home but also for socializing, Polis said.
While the fund can’t provide grants to individuals, it will support community-based organizations that directly support local residents and families who are most affected the health, economic, and social impacts of COVID-19, according to the fund’s website, helpcoloradonow.com.
The fund is a partnership between the state and Mile High United Way, a metro Denver nonprofit.
After a rural southwest Colorado county became the first in the state to implement a shelter in-place order requiring people to stay home, Gov. Jared Polis stopped short of saying whether he would impose a similar order statewide to stem the spread of COVID-19.
Meanwhile, the state urged landlords, utility companies, banks and other authorities to give Coloradans breathing room on bills — including pressing to delay evictions.
“We cannot ask people to stay home to stop the spread of coronavirus if they aren't able to keep their home, whether they're renting or they have mortgage payments,” Polis said at a March 20 news conference.
As the tally of Coloradans confirmed to have COVID-19, the disease caused by a widespread coronavirus, reached 277 — with 38 hospitalized, about 3,000 tested and four deaths as of March 20 — Polis announced several measures to help cushion the economic blow the virus has dealt across the state.
He applauded that the federal government suspended foreclosures for 60 days for people with mortgages with federal insurance — and he announced Colorado will work with financial institutions under the state's oversight, encouraging banks and other institutions to halt foreclosures and evictions due to income reductions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The governor also asked financial institutions to consider a 90-day extension on payments for mortgages, refinances, auto loans, student loans and small-business loans.
“We also request that landlords refrain from removing tenants” or those who live in mobile homes as a result of late rent payment through April 30, Polis said.
The governor urged police chiefs and sheriffs not to enforce evictions in most cases and ensured that no state law enforcement would be used for such enforcement.
By executive order, Polis instructed the state to provide short-term rental and mortgage assistance to low-income households — those below 50% of area median income — that face financial hardship due to economic disruption associated with COVID-19.
Polis also asked utility companies not to shut off Coloradans' service due to late payments related to impacts of the pandemic. Xcel Energy has already taken that step, but the state wants to ensure other companies do too, Polis said.
“I'm pleased to announce that I'm extending the income tax deadline for 90 days until July 15” for all individuals and businesses, Polis said. A similar order at the federal level also delayed tax payment amid the pandemic.
Polis encouraged cities and counties to defer property, use and sales taxes, pledging the state would be “more than a willing partner” for that action.
After Colorado implemented a shutdown of dine-in restaurant and bar service through the end of April — also ordering horse track and off-track betting facilities, hair and nail salons, spas, and tattoo and massage parlors to close during that time — the governor extended a small ray of hope, announcing March 20 that the state would allow restaurants and bars to sell alcohol if customers also purchase food. That new rule lasts until April 18.
Take-out, delivery and drive-thru service were still allowed under the order.
Polis announced the creation of an emergency task force to help steer the economy back on track, headed by Federico Peña, a former Denver mayor who has served in the Cabinet of President Bill Clinton and has experience in the investment industry.
For now, Polis announced an executive order to allow the state to expedite unemployment claims amid overwhelming demand for unemployment insurance.
He also directed people to Safeway, King Soopers, Amazon, UPS and similar businesses who are hiring amid the pandemic. ChooseColorado.com is the state's website for employment resources.
Some additional relief is available already: The federal government declared Colorado a disaster area amid the pandemic, and small businesses may be eligible for loans that can ease the pain. Contact the Colorado office of the U.S Small Business Administration at 303-844-2607 for more information.
Colorado also offers a layoff-prevention program that could help businesses impacted by the state's ordered closures — or businesses that have been economically impacted by the pandemic in general. It's called the Colorado Work-Share, and more information is on the state's website.
San Miguel County announced March 18 a shelter-in-place order — meaning residents must stay at home unless it's essential they leave — that lasts through at least April 3.
Under the order, people can only leave home to perform “essential activities,” including needs such as obtaining medication, going to the doctor, getting groceries, caring for a family member or pet. People are allowed to leave for work only at certain types of businesses.
It makes an exception for activities such as walking, hiking or running, as long as participants keep their distance from others.
Bay Area counties in California announced a shelter-in-place order for all residents from March 17 until at least April 7. People were advised to leave their homes only to take care of essential errands.
Polis didn't directly answer questions about whether the state itself is considering implementing a shelter-in-place order. When asked about how such an order would affect food distributed by schools, Polis said: “We're never going to do anything to prevent kids from getting the food they need” and that students will still be ready to graduate and move on to the next year of school.
He pointed to additional measures the state took in recent days, including discouraging people gathering in groups larger than 10.
“The more we can contain the spread of the virus in Colorado, the less likely it is that additional steps would be taken,” Polis said.
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