Colorado Capitol Report

COVID-19 Update: Gov. Polis Announces More Efforts to Help Businesses & Individuals and Establishes Emergency Economic Council

COVID-19 Update: Gov. Polis Announces More Efforts to Help Businesses & Individuals and Establishes Emergency Economic Council

Today, Governor Polis announced a new executive order today relating to housing, loans, tax deferrals, utilities, and restaurants to support businesses and individuals during the COVID-19 crisis.  He also announced today the creation of the Emergency Council for Economic Stabilization and Growth, comprised of private sector advisors to help the state navigate the crisis. Please see additional details below.

Governor Polis’ New Executive Order on Housing and Tax Deferrals

The governor also announced a new executive order covering a broad range of issues, from housing and mortgage requirements to waived restrictions on restaurants.

  • Regarding housing, the executive order takes a number of steps intended to prevent foreclosures, evictions and displacements. Details are as follows:
    • Suspension of debt payments for evictions, foreclosures and utility shut-offs.
    • Requests that landlords not remove tenants or impose fees for late payments of rent.
    • Asks local law enforcement to not use resources to pursue evictions.
    • Encourages banks, credit unions, and financial institutions holding mortgages to follow the lead of the federal government in suspending all foreclosures and evictions on FHA-backed loans for 60 days.
    • Places 90-day deferment of payment for consumer loans – this includes everything from mortgages to student loans to auto loans.
  • While many utilities have already voluntarily taken similar steps, the executive order requires that all utility providers refrain from disconnecting services due to the inability of consumers to pay.
  • The governor is also extending state tax deadlines for businesses and individuals for 90 days (to July 15, 2020) without penalty or interest. He’s asked the state Department of Insurance to work with local governments to do the same for local taxes.
  • The executive order allows restaurants to offering food delivery or take-out to also sell beer and wine.
  • Unemployment Insurance payments and applications will be expedited.

The full executive order has yet to be released, but you can view all of the governors executive orders here.

Emergency Council for Economic Stabilization and Growth

The governor’s new emergency council will be chaired by former Denver Mayor Federico Peña and will include business leaders from various sectors of the economy. Foundry Group leader Brad Feld, former Level 3 CEO Jim Crowe, Colorado Business Committee for the Arts Director Deborah Jordy, Colorado Rockies owner Dick Monfort, union leader Gary Arnold and Bow River Capital Founder Blair Richardson have also been named to the council.

The goal of the council is to seek out policy tools and resources to advise the governor on swift actions that can be taken to navigate these challenging times. Chair Peña indicated that speed is of the essence, and the priority will be identifying actions that can be taken quickly to provide relief to businesses.

Peña said that the short-term strategy of the council will be to explore policies related to paid sick leave coverage, tax deferrals, small business loans, temporary deferrals at the state and local level, income tax benefits, and unemployment insurance. The council will also look at addressing medical costs, testing, and treatment of the virus, as well as transitioning the workforce when the economy starts recovering.

Long-term, the council will focus on measures to stimulate the economy, like transportation infrastructure investments, incentivizing a resilient supply chain, managing impacts to trade, and handling bankruptcies.

The council will be expanded to include other private sector advisors and will have subcommittees to address specific issues of concern. Colorado Chamber members who are interested in participating should contact Betsy Markey at [email protected].

Changes to COMPS Order #36 and Leniency by the Colorado Division of Labor

Please be advised that the Colorado Overtime and Minimum Pay Standards Order (“COMPS Order 36”) went into effect on March 16, 2020.  There were a few changes adopted through temporary or emergency rules which include the following:

  • an additional exemption, from just 12-hour daily overtime, for those direct care/direct support “companions” who are Medicaid-funded and who work shifts of 24 hours or longer, conforming to a federal appellate ruling last month, plus related technical clarifications to the definition and scope of Medicaid-funded providers for whom additional rest period flexibility applies;
  • a lessening of employer obligations as to what information must be in earnings statements issued every pay period, based on recent feedback about how to avoid excessive unintended burdens on employers (see modified Rules 7.2-7.3); and
  • a clarification that the “joint employment” standard remains as it has been under Colorado wage and hour law, notwithstanding the recent federal adoption (effective today) of a narrower “joint employment” standard for federal wage law (see modified Rule 1.6).

**Please see the attached sets of Rules and Statements for more information.

The Division has also adopted the following policies on the COMPS rule and will grant leniency to employers during the upcoming weeks:

Division Operations, and Compliance Grace Periods:

  • COMPS-required paperwork (posters, handbook inserts, acknowledgements, etc.) – To the extent that COMPS requires new paperwork from employers (new posters, handbook inserts, acknowledgement forms, etc.), the Division will deem compliance by April 16th to be sufficient.
  • No Division-initiated investigations of new COMPS rules until 4/16/20 – While the Division by statute must investigate any claims filed, the Division’s “Direct Investigations” team launches its own investigations, based on tips, leads, and known problem sectors. For the first month of COMPS being in effect (until April 16th), direct Investigations will not launch new investigations based on violations of new COMPS rules.
  • Deeming violations of new COMPS provisions rules non-willful if remedied by 4/16/20 – As noted above, the Division cannot by statute reject a claim filed shortly after COMPS takes effect. But to the extent that a violation committed within the first month of COMPS is solely of a new obligation under COMPS, the Division will deem the violation not “willful” if employer remedies it within the first month of COMPS (by April 16th).
  • Starting March 17th, no new “notices of claim” will be sent to employers until April 1st – This is for all wage claims, not just those related to COMPS. Because some employers may be currently struggling to keep up with mail receipt, the Division will postpone mailing any new “notice of claim” – the mailing that tells an employer that a claim has been filed against it – because by statute, a notice of claim starts a 14-day clock for the employer to avoid penalties by paying any wages due.

For additional information regarding the COMPS rule, please go to:  COMPS informational page.