Local COVID-19 impacts and resources
A look at efforts to help businesses, individuals weather the storm.
By Zach Hillstrom
Special to the Southeast Express
The COVID-19 pandemic’s economic fallout has left Colorado’s business community reeling, and guidelines from city, state and federal officials have changed daily — sometimes hourly. Our sister paper, the Colorado Springs Indy has rounded up developments that will have the most impact locally.
• The Families First Coronavirus Response Act was approved by the U.S. Senate on March 18, granting financial support for individuals, families and businesses impacted by the spread of COVID-19. It provides new funding for nutrition assistance, medical care and paid leave, and designated an additional $500 million for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children and $400 million for emergency food assistance. It will allow state agencies to develop plans to supply free meals for kids whose school districts have closed, and designates $250 million for aging and disability services, including home-delivered meals. It also designates $1 billion for reimbursing health care providers for services related to COVID-19, including testing and office visits, and provides additional unemployment assistance funding for states to distribute. Other requirements of the act include:
– Paid leave for some people affected by the pandemic, though certain exemptions apply based on company size and may not apply if a company already provides paid leave.
– Employers must provide family leave for employees impacted by COVID-19, with some caveats: People receiving paid leave to care for a child (including due to a school closure) must have been employed at their company for at least 30 days. Businesses with more than 500 employees or fewer than 50 employees can be exempted from this requirement. The first 10 days of such leave can be unpaid — after that, employees must be paid at least two-thirds of their salary but aren’t required to be paid more than $200 per day.
– Paid sick leave for employees impacted by COVID-19, who qualify if they are sick or have been advised to self-quarantine. Full-time employees get 80 hours of paid sick time, and part-time employees get paid sick time equal to the number of hours they’d work over two weeks. The amount of leave is the same as regular pay [up to $511 a day]. Businesses with more than 500 employees are exempt from this requirement.
• The Colorado Division of Motor Vehicles announced all state driver’s license offices will be closed, but will continue to process online license and ID renewals. People who are unable to complete their renewals online should request an expiration extension online or by calling 303-205-5600 during business hours. The motor vehicles division is advising people to check available online services at mydmv.colorado.gov/_/ which range from requesting records and paying citations to requesting personalized license plates.
• The 4th Judicial District is operating on an emergency basis and restricting entry to the courthouse at 270 S. Tejon St. Only certain petitioners — for limited types of hearings — attorneys, witnesses, victims, law enforcement and press may enter. People who have been summoned as a witness for a trial, or who have received a jury summons for a jury call before March 30, may not enter. Before heading to court in the Springs, people should check tinyurl.com/r8zdlw7 for the latest details. Most services are closed at the El Paso County and Teller County courthouses. For general questions, email the Clerk’s Office at email@example.com or call 719-452-5000.
• Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colorado, spoke to business leaders March 23 saying he advocates creating a new category of unemployment assistance for those whose livelihoods have been affected by the virus. The new category, he said, wouldn’t require somebody to be laid off or fired or furloughed, but would allow assistance through the unemployment insurance office for people who have had their hours reduced, or people who are at home because their place of work has temporarily closed.
• Colorado’s Department of Labor and Employment is offering help for workers and employers facing setbacks from closures due to COVID-19. CDLE provides information for those filing unemployment insurance claims and information on programs available to employers.
– Workers whose hours or wages are cut back can file a claim at coloradoui.gov, and a list of resources and FAQs on how to file is available at colorado.gov/cdle — click on “Coronavirus Information and Resources.” The agency is asking those whose last names begin with the letters A-M file a claim on Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday or after noon on Saturday. Those with last names beginning with N-Z should file their claims on Monday, Wednesday, Friday or before noon on Saturday.
– CDLE encourages all employers to use paid leave and telework options for employees before using temporary layoffs. They can also consider alternatives to layoffs through CDLE’s Work Share Program. For details visit colorado.gov/pacific/cdle/node/23616 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Colorado small businesses hurt by the pandemic can apply for individual small business loans of up to $2 million through the Small Business Administration. Gov. Jared Polis announced March 19 that Colorado’s application for federal disaster area designation was approved and the loans are available through the SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, which provides low-interest federal loans for working capital to small businesses hurt by the COVID-19 crisis. Small businesses, private nonprofits, small agricultural cooperatives and small aquaculture enterprises impacted by the virus can seek federal loans to pay for key needs such as fixed debts, payroll and accounts payable. For eligibility information, loan application links and emerging economic recovery resources go to choosecolorado.com.
• The Colorado Small Business Development Center’s technology program, TechSource: Commercialization, whose staff is working remotely, is offering services and support for small businesses and entrepreneurs during the pandemic. The organization will respond to questions and concerns about the impacts of COVID-19 and suggest resources that may help, including Small Business Administration low-interest loans. TechSource will field requests for assistance by email or phone, conduct consulting meetings via phone and online by appointment, and hold workshops online. For details visit sbdc-techsource.org/disaster-preparedness.
• The United States Department of the Treasury announced that individuals and corporations can delay their federal income tax payments for 90 days due to the pandemic. Individual filers can defer up to $1 million in payments for 90 days from the deadline, which was pushed back from April 15, to July 15. During the 90-day period, the Internal Revenue Service will not charge interest or penalties. The delay affects 2019 federal income tax payments, but Colorado officials later announced that the state income tax payment deadline also has been extended to July 15. All income tax returns that were due to be filed by April 15, 2020, are granted a six-month extension, to Oct. 15.
For more information on COVID-19 in Colorado Springs, visit csindy.com. For further info about the pandemic in general, the following sites and services have reliable information:
– CDC — cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov
– Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment — colorado.gov/CDPHE
– El Paso County Public Health — elpasocountyhealth.org
– Pikes Peak SBDC Business Preparedness & Continuity [Health Crisis Updates] — pikespeaksbdc.org/what-we-do/programs/disaster-relief/
– UCHealth — uchealth.org/today/covid-19-coronavirus-recent-updates
– Centura Health — centura.org/COVID-19
– World Health Organization — who.int
– Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center — coronavirus.jhu.edu
– COVID-19 Interactive Map — coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html
– CDPHE Help Line — 303-389-1687 or 1-877-462-2911
– U.S. National Library of Medicine — medlineplus.gov
– U.S. Food and Drug Administration — fda.gov