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DBJ: Why Colorado business leaders have mixed reactions to special legislative session

By Ed Sealover for the Denver Business Journal

Following a three-day special session in which Colorado legislators passed 10 bills, including eight with stimulus money for various sectors, business leaders said they are grateful for any aid but see it only offering marginal help to small firms reeling from coronavirus restrictions.

Four of the 10 bills make monetary or regulatory allocations specifically to businesses, and just one offers help that can exceed $10,000 — a measure that will provide grants for existing and newly launching child-care centers. Meanwhile, private-sector leaders said they did not get the two biggest regulatory loosenings they would have liked to have seen — a measure to give them protection against coronavirus-related lawsuits, which died in committee, or any rollback of capacity restrictions.

That isn’t to say that what legislators passed was meritless. When Gov. Jared Polis signs the bills, as he vowed Wednesday to do quickly, restriction-laden small businesses can seek one-time grants of up to $7,000, while bars and restaurants can keep up to $2,000 per month for the next four months in sales-tax revenues they won’t have to pay to the state. Some fees for liquor licensing and health inspection will be waived.

But with performance venues shut down, restaurants in the Denver metro area reduced to outdoor dining and takeout and the state’s unemployment rate no longer on a downward trajectory, the measures aren’t likely to save many teetering businesses. Legislative leaders know that — majority Democrats said repeatedly throughout the blitz of a session that they need the federal government to take action and pass another stimulus — but the fact remains that this week’s actions are a bandage rather than anything close to a cure.

“Look, I think we’re sensitive to the budget restrictions the state experiences every year, this year especially. But the tax relief, the handouts, is a very small amount to the businesses that have been crushed by restrictions,” said Loren Furman, senior vice president of state and federal relations for the Colorado Chamber of Commerce. “I think we need to have some relief from the public health orders for those businesses that are doing everything they can to keep people safe.”

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