On November 30, 2020, the Colorado General Assembly convened for an extraordinary session aimed at providing additional pandemic relief. Of the nearly 40 bills that were introduced, 10 passed. By December 7, 2020, Governor Polis had signed those 10 bills into law. In total, these bills provide approximately $300 million in aid primarily for small businesses and Colorado residents. One bill that passed and two that did not are highlighted below.
House Bill 1001: Grants for Improved Internet Infrastructure Passes
Let’s start with the bill that passed. House Bill 1001 allocates $20 million to improve internet access for Colorado students and educators who are relying in part or entirely on remote learning. The money will be doled out through a grant program and can used to address internet connectively on both a small and large scale. Indeed, the bill allows the grant money to be used for “devices to access the internet” (i.e., computers, modems, routers, etc.), broadband service subscriptions, and data plans. The bill also allows the grant money to be used to “address broadband infrastructure needs in communities in which broadband service is significantly limited or not available.” This latter category provides an opportunity for internet providers to bring better internet infrastructure to rural and underserved areas.
Senate Bill 11: Covid-19 Liability Shield for Small Businesses Does Not Pass
Entitled “Immunity for Small Businesses During COVID-19,” Senate Bill 11 proposed that businesses with less than 50 employees be afforded immunity from civil liability through March 10, 2022, “for any act or omission that results in exposure, loss, damage, injury, or death arising out of COVID-19 if the small business attempts in good faith to comply with applicable public health guidelines.”
The passing of Senate Bill 11 would have brought Colorado in alignment with the majority of states which have passed some form of legislation limiting businesses’ and/or individuals’ civil liability related to unintentional COVID-19 exposure. This bill would have afforded protection to smaller companies whose employees or customers claimed to have contracted COVID-19 during their employment or patronage of the business. However, because the bill did not pass, Colorado remains a state where there is no protection from lawsuits seeking damages for injuries or losses related to COVID-19 exposure.
House Bill 2017: Proposed Tax Credit Relief for Residential and Commercial Landlords Does Not Pass
House Bill 2017 proposed an income tax credit for landlords “in an amount equal to the amount of rental payments owed, but not paid” during Colorado’s moratorium on evictions due to COVID-19. The bill proposed to extend relief to both commercial and residential landlords. However, the bill did not pass. Instead, Colorado focused its latest relief efforts on individuals with unstable housing. Accordingly, landlords may be secondary beneficiaries of tenant-focused relief, but may struggle to offset or recoup past losses related to the pandemic.