Thousands of livelihoods were being upended by the state's shutdown of businesses amid the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by a widespread coronavirus — and the new closures are sure to broaden those hardships.
But some resources are available.
Colorado's state government 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. Colorado's Work Share program allows employers to split the cost with unemployment insurance to retain employees.
The program can pay employees up to 26 weeks of work-share benefits as long as their hours are reduced by at least 10% but by no more than 40%, according to the state Department of Labor and Employment.
Any Colorado employer may request a work share plan — not just those affected by the recent public health orders — but see www.colorado.gov/pacific/cdle/layoffassistance for more information and requirements.
Employers of any size may request a work share plan as long as the plan covers a minimum of two workers.
Employees who see a reduction in hours, or layoffs, are encouraged to apply for unemployment benefits, which can provide partial wage replacement, at www.colorado.gov/cdle/unemployment.
The federal government has declared Colorado a disaster area as the economic damage of COVID-19 continued to ripple throughout the state, 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 extended its 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 in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.
The updated order from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment on March 19 does not affect take-out, drive-thru and delivery service for restaurants and bars, which are still allowed.
The order excludes university dining hall services — and gyms, spas, salons and parlors that are part of hotels or condominium or apartment complexes.
Initially, the state on March 16 ordered bars and restaurants to stop dine-in service for 30 days, still allowing delivery, take-out and drive-thru. Theaters — including movie and performance venues and concert halls — along with casinos and gyms were ordered to close under the same action.
Those businesses also must remain closed for the updated time frame, which can still be still be extended further.
The affected businesses that offer food or beverages can allow up to five people inside at a time to pick up their orders as long as customers are at least 6 feet apart from one another, the state's order says.
Airport food courts are exempt from the closures, as is room service in hotels.
Spas, salons, parlors and gyms that are part of hotels or housing complexes — and university food services — must maintain at least 6 feet between people, the order says.
Other state actions also were announced in a March 19 news release, including a special enrollment period for people without health insurance, and suspending surgeries and medical procedures that are not urgent.
Gov. Jared Polis signed an executive order suspending surgeries and procedures that can be delayed without risk to the current or future health of the patient. The order is in effect from March 23 to April 14.
The order is a bid to preserve medical equipment, such as personal protective equipment and ventilators, needed to combat COVID-19, the news release said.
It includes medical, dental or veterinary surgeries or procedures, and it makes an exception for rural and critical access hospitals.
The state also announced a special enrollment period for uninsured Coloradans to sign up for health insurance, according to the news release.
People without insurance will be allowed to enroll in individual plans — meaning plans not provided through an employer — from March 20 through April 3. Coverage will be effective starting April 1, regardless of when someone enrolls during that window. This is not a period for people with coverage to change plans, the release said. Uninsured spouses and children will also be allowed to enroll during the period, even if one spouse or a child's parent may already be insured.
For Coloradans who lose their jobs, or who may lose it in the coming weeks, loss of employer-based health insurance allows a 60-day window to enroll in individual coverage, whenever that might happen throughout the year, the release said. The state directed people to www.connectforhealthco.com for details.
The state also announced an updated executive order reducing in-person contact regarding elections and other operations under the Colorado Secretary of State's Office, which oversees elections and the filing of certain types of official documents.
The order also suspended the requirement that county clerks' staff must physically deliver and return ballots to group residential facilities. It directs county clerks and other election officials to register voters and deliver ballots to such facilities by mail, electronically or by other methods that don't require entering the facility.
County canvass boards are also to meet and conduct duties remotely, using any technology available, the order says. County canvass boards meet to make sure each valid vote is included in an election's official results in their jurisdiction.
The order also directs the secretary of state to outline the time, place and manner in which hearings will be conducted under the Title Board, which finalizes the language for ballot initiatives — changes to law that citizens vote on. The board considers whether the language adequately represents the proposed changes to law and whether it would be understandable to voters.
The order lasts for 30 days from March 18.
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