Back to the Capitol!

Today was our first day back to the Capitol after recessing due to the COVID-19 crisis in early March. Our main priority at the moment is passing the budget for the next fiscal year, which begins in July. Our other main priority is mitigating the repercussions of COVID-19 – this includes keeping everybody at the Capitol safe and healthy. The building looks very different – there are plastic guards up around everybody’s desks, and legislators are spaced out more than usual with some even sitting up in the gallery. We are wearing masks and maintaining social distancing as well as other best practices to protect public health.

Plastic guards are up between everybody’s desks.

Passing the budget will be a difficult task. As Senator Zenzinger put it, “extraordinary. I have no other word to convey the sheer magnitude of the revenue shortfall we faced. The immensity. The expanse. The enormity”. The Joint Budget Committee, of which the Senator is a member, has spent the past few weeks making immense budget cuts due to the nearly $4 billion shortfall we are facing for the next fiscal year as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. Many difficult choices were made.

The JBC rewrote the budget in three weeks. This is a process that generally takes about five months. While this will be a difficult year, Colorado will prevail, as we always have.

Representative Kraft-Tharp, Representative Valdez and Representative Herod on the House floor

Last week, Governor Polis released his Executive Order that distributed the finances that Colorado received from the CARES Act federal stimulus package. Colorado was allocated about $1.67 billion from the act. The following list is a summary of the funding allocations:

  • $48 million for Fiscal Year (FY) 19-20 and $157 million for FY20-21 to the Disaster Emergency Relief fund for direct COVID-19 response
  • $8 million between FY19-20 and FY20-21 to the CO Dept. of Corrections for expenditures related to complying with health measures related to COVID-19.
  • $2 million between FY19-20 and FY20-21 to the CO Dept. of Human Services (CDHS) to assist with compliance in veterans living facilities with health measures related to COVID-19.
  • $37 million to the CO Dept. of Education (CDE) for FY20-21 to assist with increased number of at-risk students during the COVID-19-driven recession.
  • $22 million between FY19-20 and FY20-21 to CDHS for expenditures related to increased caseloads due to the COVID-19 recession. 
  • $10 million for FY19-20 to the Dept. of Local Affairs for emergency rental & mortgage assistance.
  • $510 million to Dept. of Education for FY19-20 for expenditures related to compliance with COVID-19 health measures.
  • $450 million to the Dept. of Higher Education for FY19-20 to assist with compliance in COVID-19 health measures. 
  • $84 million between FY19-20 and FY20-21 will remain available for payroll expenses and other expenditures for first responders and other employees whose services have been mitigating or responding to the COVID-19 emergency.
  • $275 million between FY19-20 and FY20-21 will remain available for units of local government that did not receive a direct distribution of funding from the CARES Act.
  • $70 million will go to the State General Fund for eligible expenditures related to COVID-19 relief.

While the CARES Act funding will be helpful, it will not completely make up for the nearly $3.3 billion that the legislature is currently cutting from the state budget. The CARES money can only be used for COVID expenses and through December 2020. You can find a full copy of Governor Polis’ Executive Order here.

As always, you can watch the legislature everyday on the Colorado Channel. Follow my Facebook TracyForJeffco for daily updates on Jefferson County, COVID, and more, and follow my Facebook State Representative Tracy Kraft-Tharp for legislature updates.

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