Colorado Recovery Hub

Colorado Recovery Hub

The current COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted our lives, our economy, and our politics. It has exposed and exacerbated existing vulnerabilities within our systems and revealed the amazing courage Americans are willing to display in the face of a crisis, particularly those on the frontlines of the health crisis, those stocking our stores, and those keeping our infrastructure functioning. When we emerge from this pandemic, Coloradans will be asked to come together and implement a recovery that builds upon our strengths as a community. 

Through this central hub for credible information we will provide ideas, analysis, and resources relevant to the immediate and future responses Colorado can undertake to respond to our changing environment.

The Bell Policy Center welcomes your feedback on this hub.
Check back often, as we’ll make updates every Monday and Thursday to keep this information as current as possible.

first-stop Resources

During these times of increased need, many federal, state, philanthropic, and community entities are stepping up to make sure Coloradans get the help they need. 

Click here to find the state’s one-stop shop for COVID-19 updates and information from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE). Visit for updates on the state’s response efforts, FAQs about the virus and public health, as well as other resources. Also check out the state’s hub for volunteering. If you’re looking for a way to get involved and lend a helping hand, click here

Here you’ll find information on how to access critical resources — food, shelter, rental assistance, child care — and how to avoid predatory practices, like scams and fraud.
United Way 211
Denver Metro COVID-19 resource document
Denver Metro Emergency Food Network
Avoid Coronavirus Scams & Fraud 

How our communities are responding

We must ensure the safety of our fellow Coloradans and ensure everyone has access to the health care they need. At the same time, we can take proactive approaches to mitigate some of the most severe economic consequences.

At its heart, our current crisis is a health care crisis. Broad, large-scale economic impacts will continue until we find ways to test, treat, and prevent the spread of COVID-19. This reality makes it essential for both state and federal governments to invest in our health care system and ensure Coloradans have access to affordable, accessible, and quality care.

 What Colorado is Doing

  • Through executive order, Colorado created a special 15-day enrollment period for those who are currently uninsured. Individuals can sign-up for coverage through Connect for Health Colorado between March 20th and April 3rd.
  • The state required insurance carriers to cover a one-time, early refill of any necessary prescription. This directive is meant to reduce possibilities for exposure to COVID-19.
  • Colorado directed insurance carriers to provide COVID-19-related, in-network telehealth services with no cost share (e.g. co-pays, deductibles, and coinsurance).
  • Colorado expanded the state Medicaid program’s ability to support and reimburse for telehealth services

What the Federal Government is Doing

  • The Families First Coronavirus Response Act:
    • Allows states to provide free COVID-19 testing for those who are uninsured. Administration and funding will come from Medicaid.
    • Requires most public and private health plans to cover COVID-19 testing with no cost-share (e.g. co-pays, deductibles, and coinsurance) for consumers.
    • Increases the Federal Medicaid Assistance Percentage (FMAP), or the federal match rate for state Medicaid programs, by 6.2 percent. This infusion of federal funds increases our ability to support medical care for thousands of financially strapped Coloradans, a number which is only expected to grow as more families face economic hardship, while simultaneously relieving some of the growing pressure on the state budget. FMAP has been increased in prior times of economic hardship. Analysis shows these increases helped to maintain a base level of Medicaid benefits, minimized provider rate cuts, and broadly supported state budgets.
  • Through the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, federal funds have been allocated for local and state response efforts. An estimated $9 million is projected to go to Colorado.
  • The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act:
    • Requires certain insurance plans to cover preventative COVID-19 services, including vaccinations, without cost-sharing.
    • Nationally allocates over $180 billion to the health system. Money is appropriated to research treatments and vaccines, provide care for veterans, and increase the availability of health care supplies. More specifically:
      • $100 billion is allocated directly to health care providers. Funds are meant to cover both lost revenue and unreimbursed health care expenses as a result of COVID-19.
      • $1.32 billion for community health centers. As in the rest of the country, Colorado’s community health centers are specifically designed to support the medically underserved.
    • Reduces barriers for the use of home-based and telehealth services.

Other Options to Consider

  • While the federal government has increased Medicaid matching reimbursement rates, they can be raised further. For example, the National Governors’ Association has requested an increase to 12 percent, which would be more in line with what many states received during the 2008 recession. Recessions and their accompanying spikes in unemployment have major implications for state budgets. Research shows every 1 percent rise in the unemployment rate leads to a 3 percent to 4 percent decline in state revenue. On a national level, the same drop leads to an additional one million people enrolling in Medicaid. Relatively quick infusions of federal money into a ready-made system like Medicaid can help states offset these simultaneous declines in revenue and increased costs.
  • Not all health plans are required to provide free COVID-19 testing. This includes short-term health plans, student health plans, and health sharing ministries. Coverage requirements for these providers can be mandated by either the state or federal government.
  • While testing costs for most individuals are waived, the same hasn’t been done for COVID-19 treatment. This coverage gap could prevent some Coloradans from getting tested. 
  • In conjunction with COVID-19 testing requirements and the creation of a special enrollment period, the state can make increased and intentional efforts to educate Coloradans of these offerings.

Other Informational Resources

Sick leave — or limited time off to care for one’s own or a loved one’s health — has always been an essential, but often grossly under provided, benefit. However, the value of and need for paid sick leave becomes all the more obvious during health crises like the one we currently find ourselves in. As we’ve heard time and again, we need sick workers to stay home in order to stop the spread of COVID-19. Paid sick days provide a degree of economic security so workers can do this.

What Colorado is Doing

  • The state mandated paid sick leave for certain workers through Colorado Health Emergency Leave with Pay (Colorado HELP) rules. These rules are in effect through March 11th.
    • Only applies to employers and employees in select industries, including leisure and hospitality, food service, child care, education, and certain health care positions.
    • Provides up to four consecutive calendar days of sick leave if employees have flu-like symptoms and are being tested for COVID-19. During the eligible four calendar days, the employee will only get paid for the days he/she is scheduled to work.
    • Requires full pay for eligible workers.

What the Federal Government is Doing

  • Congress recently passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which requires sick leave through the end of 2020 for some workers.
    • Provides up to 80 hours of job protected paid leave. 
    • Only applies to those working for an employer with less than 500 employees.
    • Allows the Department of Labor to exempt some employers, including:
      • Businesses with less than 50 employees if they can demonstrate compliance will create a hardship
      • Agencies providing health care and/or emergency response services
    • Paid leave can be used for those who are:
      • Subject to federal and state quarantine and isolation requirements for COVID-19
      • Advised by health care providers to self quarantine
      • Experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking medical diagnosis
      • Caring for someone who is self-isolating because of diagnosed/suspected COVID-19
      • Caring for a child if their school/place of care is closed due to COVID-19
    • Employers who provide the benefit will receive a refundable tax credit against the full cost of paid-out leave.

Other Options to Consider

  • At both the state and federal level, these emergency rules can be strengthened by:

Other Informational Resources

Large scale health crises demonstrate the value of thoughtfully designed paid family and medical leave programs. In the handful of states with pre-existing state-based programs, we see how paid family and medical leave has the ability to help employees better balance work, family, and financial responsibilities. Especially as we continue to see essential family care services — including schools and child/elder care centers — close, paid family and medical leave becomes an essential benefit for thousands of workers.

What Colorado is Doing

  • Colorado doesn’t have its own state-based paid family and medical leave program. However, prior to closures as a result of COVID-19, lawmakers were actively working to advance a bill that would have made Colorado the ninth state in the country to create its own paid family and medical leave program.

What is the Federal Government Doing

  • Congress recently passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which requires paid family and medical leave through the end of 2020 for some workers.
    • Provides up to 12 weeks of job protected paid family and medical leave. 
    • Only applies to those working for an employer with less than 500 employees.
    • Allows the Department of Labor to exempt some employers, including:
      • Businesses with less than 50 employees if they can demonstrate compliance will create a hardship.
      • Agencies providing health care and/or emergency response services
    • Paid family and medical leave can be used for those who are:
      • Unable to work/telework because a child’s school/place of care has been closed due to COVID-19.
    • Employers who provide the benefit will receive a refundable tax credit against the full cost of paid-out leave.

Other Options to Consider

  • The aforementioned emergency rules from the federal government can be strengthened by:
    • Extending the mandate to all employers, regardless of business size. According to information from the Census Bureau, we know more than 50 percent of all employees in Colorado work for a business with more than 500 workers.
    • Expanding who workers can take time off to care for. Notably, current legislation doesn’t allow workers to take time off to care for an older loved one or a loved one with a disability who may be impacted by the closures of day facilities. 
    • Allowing additional family members to take time off to care for their loved ones. Current legislation only applies to biological, adopted, foster, and step parents, as well as those acting in legal place of a parent. By expanding who can take paid family and medical leave, we’ll be doing a better job of recognizing the growing diversity of our families.

Other Informational Resources

  • A more in-depth overview from A Better Balance on the newly created federal paid family and medical leave legislation.

Expanded, prompt, and flexible administration of UI benefits will be critical to supporting Coloradans during this crisis and ensuring any recovery benefits those most affected by the economic ramifications of COVID-19. UI can help mitigate the economic impacts of the pandemic and address large-scale job loss during a recession. UI is currently limited in its coverage, so additional steps will be needed to provide assistance to independent contractors (e.g. gig workers) and self-employed individuals (e.g. family child care providers).

What Colorado is Doing

What the Federal Government is Doing

  • Congress passed Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which boosts unemployment benefits, with nearly $1 billion in state grants to cover processing and paying unemployment insurance. It also raises the amount of assistance to states with high unemployment for individuals who have exhausted benefits already.
  • It’s anticipated a larger stimulus package will include an expanded version of unemployment insurance.
  • Through the CARES Act:
    • $100 million in grants to states to implement, improve, and promote Work-Share programs.
    • Creates three new UI programs, including Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (PUC), Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). All three programs are fully federally funded.
      • Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (PUC): All regular UI and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance claimants will receive their usual calculated benefits plus an additional $600 per week in compensation through July 31, 2020. The $600 equals the amount needed to bring the average worker’s benefit up to 100 percent of wage replacement.
      • Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC): Provides an additional 13 weeks of state UI benefits, which will become available after someone exhausts all their regular state UI benefits. In Colorado, this would equal 39 weeks of possible UI benefits (26 under current state law and 13 more under PEUC). To receive PEUC, workers must be actively engaged in searching for work unless there are COVID-19 related illness or movement restrictions.
      • Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA): Provides emergency unemployment assistance to workers who are left out of regular state UI or who have exhausted their state UI benefits (including any extended benefits that might become available in the future). The additional workers covered include self-employed workers, independent contractors, freelancers, workers seeking part-time work, and workers who do not have a long-enough work history to qualify for state UI benefits. Workers must be authorized to work to be eligible for PUA, meaning undocumented workers will not qualify.

Other Options to Consider

  • Expand the use of the Work-Share Program, which provides an alternative to laying off employees by allowing them to keep working, but with fewer hours. While an employee is working fewer hours, he or she may be eligible to collect part of his or her regular unemployment benefits. Furthermore, the state should invest to ensure that the Work-Share Program is as simple and accessible as possible.
  • Clarify “good cause to quit” work includes being forced to work while you or others in the workplace are sick or when you and others in the workplace should be quarantined because of exposure.
  • Clarify any layoffs, partial or complete, as a consequence of COVID will not count against an employer’s experience rating.
  • Provide UI benefits to anyone who meets an ABC test. This test will be the easiest to administer at the scale and with the speed that Colorado will need. This test would qualify many independent contractors and gig workers for UI. Colorado could also require that anyone who has more than 50 workers in Colorado satisfy the ABC test needs to pay back premiums.
  • Eliminate work requirements and the one-week wait.
  • Clarify workers can receive benefits if they have reduced hours or are temporarily furloughed, even if the employer continues to provide health benefits.

Other Informational Resources

As Coloradans are being asked to stay home for the public safety of all, it’s vital Coloradans have homes and maintain those homes during this critical period. Without regular income or increased income support, many Coloradans are in danger of eviction, foreclosure, late fees, utility cutoffs, and/or unmanageable debt. For Coloradans without houses or apartments, the prospect of going to crowded shelters is a severe public health risk. Now more than ever, there can be no prioritization of public health without ensuring everyone has a safe and supportive home to go to and shelter within.

What Colorado is Doing

  • Governor Polis limited state resources that could be used to carry out evictions. He also discouraged landlords from evicting tenants and charging late fees. He did not institute a moratorium on evictions or late fees.
  • Through executive order, Governor Polis made available $3 million from the Disaster Emergency Fund to provide short-term rental and mortgage assistance to low-income households facing financial hardship due to economic disruption associated with COVID-19, prioritizing assistance to those who had continuous prior work history and lost employment related to public health orders.
  • Governor Polis ordered state agencies to work with state-chartered financial institutions to identify practices and policies to combat the threat of residential and commercial foreclosures and displacement to individuals and small businesses.
  • Governor Polis ordered state agencies to work with all public utilities in the state to suspend service disconnections for delayed or missed payments from residential and small business consumers.

 What the Federal Government is Doing

Other Options to Consider

  • Enact an executive order requiring (rather than suggesting) all evictions and foreclosure proceedings be suspended statewide, for Colorado renters and homeowners (including those paying lot rents for mobile homes).
  • Enact an executive order prohibiting (rather than suggesting) all household utilities, including internet services, from being disconnected due to late or nonpayment.
  • Enact an executive order prohibiting (rather than suggesting) the imposition of late fees and interest on past due rent and utility bills.
  • Instruct state agencies to work with appropriate federal authorities to waive negative credit impacts that might accrue during this time.
  • Further boost funding through the Disaster Emergency Fund for existing emergency rental and mortgage assistance programs for those who need it, including seeking federal support and educating the public about additional resources.
  • Instruct local governments to increase income supports so those impacted can continue to meet their basic needs and those of their families while staying safely in their homes. 
  • Encourage all state and local governments to use all vacant units to house the homeless, both private and public. All homeless Coloradans should be moved to safe, quality housing as fast as possible.

Other Informational Resources

Nearly half of child care providers nationwide are losing income since the COVID-19 pandemic and one-third fear they cannot survive a two-week closure without public investment to cover basic needs. Lost wages aren’t the only challenge, as extended K-12 school closures and family child care home closures mean emergency responders and direct care workers are without child care for their own children. Addressing this child care crisis will require solutions from both the state and federal governments.

What Colorado is Doing

  • Through executive order, Governor Polis directed the Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS) to access additional Child Care Development Block Grant funds for counties to reimburse child care providers in the Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP) for absences or closures related to COVID-19.  
  • In partnership with advocacy organizations and state agencies, Governor Polis created an emergency child care system to provide child care for the children of workers essential to support treatment and prevention of COVID-19.
  • Local advocacy organizations sent a federal advocacy letter to congressional leaders requesting significant investment for child care including funding requests for Child Care Development Block Grants, Head Start, business support, and support to child care providers providing emergency child care.
  • Governor Polis signed an executive order authorizing state agencies to extend the expiration date for child care center and family child care home licenses.

What the Federal Government is Doing

  • The Office of Head Start has directed programs to continue to pay wages and benefits to staff impacted by COVID-19 closures until April 30th.
  • Family Child Care Home providers are at risk for permanent closures due to reduced or lost income from COVID-19 closures. Recognizing Family Child Care Home providers as small business owners like child care centers, the U.S. Small Business Administration is offering guidance and low-interest loans to child care providers to remain in business.
  • The CARES Act provides relief to child care providers through flexible federal funds:
    • $3.5 billion will go to the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDGB) program, which will support state child care programs with additional funds for emergency child care for essential workers, ongoing child care subsidies, and sanitation supplies. For Colorado, this would translate to approximately $41 million in CCDGB funds. 
    • $750 million in Head Start funds will support increased staffing needs and expanded operations. 
    • The Small Business Administration will administer $562 million to fund Economic Injury Disaster loans to nonprofit and for-profit child care providers with less than 500 employees to cover eight weeks of payroll, mortgage/rent payments, and utility payments.
  • Many family child care providers are self-employed, meaning they are currently ineligible for state unemployment insurance (UI) benefits. The CARES Act creates a federally funded Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program which provides emergency unemployment assistance to groups that do not typically qualify for UI, including self-employed individuals. (See UI section for more details.)

Other Options to Consider

  • Implement policies to better support child care providers with leniency on rent and mortgage payments and utility support for three to six months. 

Other Informational Resources

With unemployment on the rise, food banks understaffed, and schools closed, a growing number of people are facing food insecurity. Beyond providing food security, food assistance programs like Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Woman, Infants, and Children (WIC) help stretch dollars as families across the nation have their lives disrupted by COVID-19. 

What Colorado is Doing

  • Colorado is continuing to administer SNAP and WIC benefits with greater capacity due to federal supports.
  • Food banks are operating and providing food. While donations from grocery stores and restaurants have decreased, which customarily make up a significant share of food banks’ inventory, federal assistance is expected to allow banks to purchase and distribute food. Food banks have implemented grab and go models, however they face increasing demand as a growing number of Coloradans are unemployed. 
  • Students who are eligible for free or reduced price lunch may continue picking up meals to go at certain locations in nearly all districts. Given Colorado’s local control model, districts have each implemented a variety of programs that vary in terms of meals provided, who is eligible, and what time meal pick-up is available. Typically, meals must be consumed by students on campus, however a federal waiver has allowed for the grab and go model that is being used by districts. One key barrier to families receiving meals is that districts are not providing transportation to these pick-up sites. 

What the Federal Government is Doing

  • Through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, Congress has
    • Provided an additional $500 million in funding for WIC.  
    • Provided funding for food banks to purchase and distribute food through the Emergency Food Assistance Program.
    • Provided greater flexibility for states to administer SNAP benefits such as by waiving work requirements and allowing schools to provide meals on a to-go basis
  • Through the CARES Act, the U.S. Congress has provided additional funding for a number of food assistance programs, including: 
    • $8.8 billion for school districts to administer meals for low-income students.
    • An additional $15.5 billion for SNAP in anticipation of increased demand.
    • An additional $450 million for food banks and local food distribution organizations.

Other Options to Consider

  • Through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act states can create plans to provide families who have children that would receive free or reduced price lunch with SNAP assistance. Colorado should ensure that any districts not providing meals, or where families cannot travel to pick up sites, are taking advantage of this option.
  • Currently, there is a patchwork of nonprofits, local, state, and federal resources trying to ensure that everyone receives the assistance they have. Ensuring that there is information about available resources is critical. 

Other Informational Resources

The economic shock caused by COVID-19 is unique in its acute impact on individuals in low-wage jobs, who often work in the service sector, and do not have the ability to work from home. Beyond the number of other programs that exist, one way that families can receive help for essential expenses is through Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), or as it is referred to in Colorado, Colorado Works. 

What Colorado is Doing

What the Federal Government is Doing

  • Congress is considering providing direct cash payments to most Americans on a sliding scale. As this is still being negotiated, we will update when a final plan is approved and signed into law.
  • Through the CARES Act:
    • Providing most Americans direct cash payments of $1,200 and $500 for each child in a family. The payments are phased out starting at $75,000 for individuals, $112,500 for head of households, and $150,000 for joint filers.
    • Allocating $900 million to the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which helps families cover the cost of their heating or cooling bills. 

Other Options to Consider

  • Individuals who have lost their jobs due to COVID-19 should refer to the unemployment section of this resource hub.

Other Informational Resources

With small businesses across Colorado closing doors and business traffic significantly decreasing, both the state and federal government will need to find solutions that help to offset these effects, as well as provide capital and loans for businesses to stay open or reopen when able.

What Colorado is Doing

  • The governor’s office applied to and was approved by the U.S. Small Business Administration for a statewide disaster declaration, a move that will free up billions in emergency loans at low interest rates for small businesses in the state. Businesses with 500 and fewer employees that can show their business operations have been impacted by the coronavirus outbreak can apply for SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program.
  • The city of Denver is creating a $4 million relief fund that will offer cash grants of up to $7,500 local businesses hurt by closures and other social distancing measures.
  • Governor Polis’ executive order D 2020 12 directs the Division of Banking to encourage state-chartered banks to suspend foreclosures as well as consider other financial accommodations such as loan payment deferments. DORA, through the Divisions of Banking and Financial Services, was directed via executive order to work with state-chartered financial institutions to identify practices and policies to combat the threat of residential and commercial foreclosures and displacement to individuals and small businesses.
  • Governor Polis has announced the creation of an economic advisory council. Comprised of business and civic leaders, the council will focus its efforts on stabilizing and restoring economic activity in the state as quickly as possible.

What the Federal Government is Doing

  • The Small Business Administration is expanding its Disaster Assistance Loan and their loan guarantee programs.
  • Federal stimulus package discussions include a large expansion of low interest loans, many that would be forgiven if the business is able to keep existing staff.
  • Through the CARES Act:
    • $349 billion for loans to small businesses who have 500 or fewer employees and certain nonprofit organizations of the same size, all through the Small Business Administration (SBA).
      • The loan may equal up to 250 percent of an employer’s average monthly payroll and will be forgiven if employer maintains payroll and spends on payroll, mortgage, rent and utility
    • $10 billion for emergency grants of up to $10,000.
    • $17 billion for to cover 6 months of payments for small businesses with existing loans.

Other Options to Consider

  • Rent relief for commercial property
    • Loan forbearance for current debt.
    • Greater use of worksharing, which allows employees to be eligible to collect part of his or her regular unemployment benefits if working shorter hours.
    • Expansion of unemployment insurance that ensures employers are not penalized for current layoffs (i.e. current layoffs to not affect future risk ratings).
    • Paid sick leave that is initially supported through government funding as opposed to a mandate to provide without assistance.
    • Protection from predatory loan products

Other Informational Resources

What Colorado is Doing

  • Previous non-partisan budget projections for Colorado showed $832 million in revenue to spend on public priorities, but projections since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic show only $27 million more in revenue than last year’s expenditures.  
  • Accounting for population growth, inflation, and case load growth in existing programs, our legislators will likely have to close a shortfall of $425 million in the budget for fiscal year 2020-2021.
  • It’s likely the true budget numbers are significantly lower and will show bigger funding gaps in our education, health, and human services systems.

What the Federal Government is Doing

  • The federal government has passed multiple bills that aim to help states in this time of crisis. This includes money for unemployment insurance claims and Medicaid reimbursements to free up state dollars for other crucial programs.
  • Through the CARES Act:
    • $150 billion for state and local governments to use to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
    • $30 billion given to all states and territories within the Education Stabilization Fund to be used to help with remote and distance learning.

 Other Options to Consider

  • Whenever the Colorado legislature returns from the session pause, we will have to see measures aimed at helping small businesses and workers throughout the state’s economy. That will have to include measures aimed at closing tax loopholes and deductions in order to finance these economic proposals. 

Other Informational Resources

Producing a Strong Recovery

As we are able to focus efforts on an economic recovery, we will need to provide affordable capital and assistance to struggling businesses and consumers. The Bell will continue to examine how Colorado can best make use of federal stimulus funding, as well as adapt priorities within the state budget.

Addressing the Systemic Vulnerability Exacerbated by the Pandemic

Viruses prey on the vulnerable and our societal weaknesses: lack of paid family and medical leave, few to no benefits for independent contractors, the strains on low-wage employment, the difficulties of caring for our young and aging Coloradans. The Bell will continue to push for solutions to these issues as a part of our recovery, ensuring we emerge stronger than before.

JOIN US

DONATE

 

BELL POLICY HOT SPOTS

RECOVERY HUB

AGING ROADMAP

FUTURE OF WORK