A Closer Look at Colorado COVID-19 Relief Programs
By Corey Cox, Caitlin Wightman
Apr 27, 2020
The Colorado government has enacted several programs aimed at helping businesses and workers adversely impacted by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). In this VS Insight, we take a closer look at the state's employment relief (for employers and employees), tax relief, and loan programs. This post is for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal or tax advice. We strongly encourage you to contact an attorney if you are seeking advice regarding any specific legal or tax issue.
For more information about Colorado's COVID-19 response and how it may impact cannabis business operators, medical patients, and other consumers, see our "Colorado Regulatory Updates" post. For national updates and additional resources, see our main post on COVID-19, "Coronavirus and Cannabis: Monitoring the Impact."
Employment Relief Programs
For businesses adversely impacted by COVID-19, Colorado provides support services and assistance, including the Colorado Capital Access Program, job and industry training program grants, loan resources, and other industry-specific resources. More information can be found on the Colorado Office of Economic Development & International Trade (EDIT) COVID-19 Business Resource Center.
For Colorado workers, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (DLE) and certain localities provide eviction suspension, temporary rental and utility assistance, paid sick leave, paid family leave, unemployment insurance, and other benefits to persons who have lost their jobs or had their work hours reduced. More information about these programs can be found on the DLE's COVID-19 resources page. We have also compiled summaries below for employers and employees.
Employer Relief Programs
Energize Colorado Gap Fund
The Energize Colorado Gap Fund will provide more than $25 million in small business loans and grants to boost small business enterprises throughout the state. Sole proprietors, businesses, and nonprofits with less than 25 full-time employees can apply for up to a $15,000 grant and a $20,000 loan for a possible combined total of $35,000 in financial assistance. The application will go live in early August.
Greenline Emergency Microloan Program
Greenline Emergency Microloan Program provides much-needed funds to minority, women, or veteran-owned small businesses throughout Colorado that have been economically impacted by the pandemic. Program Loans can be used in addition to the Paycheck Protection Program loans offered through the SBA. Businesses that meet the eligibility criteria may apply online for a Program microloan. To apply, send the completed application via email to email@example.com along with the required documents.
Colorado Capital Access Program
The Colorado Capital Access Program creates greater access to capital for small and medium-sized businesses by using public resources to encourage financing by lenders.
Colorado FIRST and Existing Industry Job Training Programs
Existing industry job training programs include Colorado FIRST grants and existing industry grants. Colorado FIRST grants are for companies that are relocating to, or expanding in, Colorado and provide funds to net new hires. Existing industry grants provide assistance to established Colorado companies to remain competitive, adapt to new technology, and prevent layoffs.
Colorado Office of Economic Development Weekly Webinars
EDIT will be holding weekly webinars for Colorado businesses focusing on topics such as funding, policy, and business solutions. These webinars are organized by region so businesses can get information most relevant to their area of operation.
Colorado Work-Share Program
The Colorado Work-Share Program provides an alternative to laying off employees by providing some unemployment benefits to employees with reduced hours. Employees who continue working but with fewer hours may be eligible to collect part of their regular unemployment benefits.
Employee Relief Programs
Colorado Special Enrollment Period for Health Insurance
The Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies, Division of Insurance has issued Emergency Regulation 20-E-02 which establishes a special enrollment period for uninsured Coloradans to secure health insurance. Under the emergency regulations, uninsured people are permitted to enroll in individual health insurance plans (meaning plans NOT from an employer) from March 20 through April 3, 2020. This special enrollment period provides an alternative to COBRA for individuals who lose may lose insurance coverage as a result of lost employment. Importantly, only people who are currently uninsured are eligible to enroll during this special enrollment period.
Colorado Unemployment Benefits
Colorado unemployment benefits may be available to workers who have lost their jobs or have had hours reduced. Employees that have had hours or wages reduced, been furloughed, laid off, or are unable to work because their place of employment has closed as a result of the Stay at Home Order can file an unemployment claim. Individuals that can file a claim now can do so on certain days and times based on the first letter of their last name. Expanded unemployment benefits offer an additional $600 a week, extend benefits for a longer period of time, and cover those that are self-employed or are gig workers, authorized by the federal CARES Act and as of April 20, 2020. These benefits are available in Colorado. Those that have already exhausted regular unemployment benefits may be eligible for expanded benefits under the CARES Act and are encouraged to continue to request payment every two weeks or reopen their claim.
The Colorado Program Eligibility and Application Kit
The Colorado Program Eligibility and Application Kit (PEAK) helps connect those in need with cash, food assistance, utility payment assistance, and medical assistance. Individuals can apply for various programs from the PEAK website. Programs available include the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, known as Colorado Works, the Low-Income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP), the Food Assistance Program, and Health First, the Colorado Medicaid program. All programs can be applied for through the PEAK website.
Paid Family Leave
Families First Corona Virus Response Act: This act was signed into law on March 18, 2020, and went into effect April 2, 2020. Under the Act, employers with fewer than 500 employees must provide employees with two weeks of paid sick leave that meets certain criteria. FAQ available here.
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance
Colorado Health Emergency Leave with Pay: Colorado’s Department of Labor and Employment (DLE) released emergency rules (and a corresponding FAQ) requiring employers in certain industries to provide paid sick leave to employees with flu-like symptoms. DLE’s emergency rules require up to four days of paid sick for employees who work in certain industries and are being tested for COVID-19. Colorado law does not require employers to provide time off due to illness or injury. Unless an employee took leave related to COVID-19, Colorado wage law does not require nor prohibit sick pay or leave, bereavement pay, or bereavement leave. Expanded unemployment insurance is still under review by the DLE to determine the specifics for compensation for those who test positive.
Denver Eviction Suspension: Denver has suspended evictions until further notice. Denver renters are still required to pay rent, but the Denver Sheriff’s Department will not enforce evictions or writs of restitution.
Denver Temporary Rental and Utility Assistance Program: Denver's Temporary Rental and Utility Assistance Program provides assistance to those that are unable to pay rent or utilities. Those that qualify can receive up to 80% of their rent and/or help paying utilities. To qualify, an individual must be a Denver resident and meet certain income limits (earning $52,000 or less for one person, or $74,250 or less for a household of four). This is temporary assistance, and payments are made directly to a landlord or utility company. More information is available here.
Denver Water Payment Assistance: Denver Water will not be disconnecting any customers due to non-payment. Customers that are concerned about paying their bill should contact Denver Water. More information can be found here.
Fort Collins Utility Assistance: The City of Fort Collins will not disconnect utility service due to non-payment. More information can be found here.
Tax Relief Programs
Tax Credits for Businesses
The Advanced Industry Investment Tax Credit
EDIT has developed the Advanced Industry Investment Tax Credit. This tax credit is available to businesses in specific industries including advanced manufacturing, bioscience, and energy and natural resources that meet specific requirements.
Enterprise Zone Tax Credits
Enterprise Zone Tax Credits provide tax credits for businesses engaged in various activities including job training, increasing their workforce and research and development, and that are located in specific Enterprise Zones within the state of Colorado.
Rural Jump-start Program
The Rural Jump-start Program provides tax relief to new businesses and new hires that are located in certain economically distressed areas in rural Colorado.
Colorado Sales Tax Extension
An Executive Order issued by Governor Polis on April 2, 2020, extends the April 20, 2020 filing and remittance deadline for State and State-administered local sales taxes to May 20, 2020, and directs the Department of Revenue to waive penalties and interest that would otherwise accrue during this period.
This Executive Order, issued April 2, 2020, temporarily suspends the calendar year 2020 statutory deadlines concerning taxpayer filing requirements for certain taxable property and permits the State Board of Equalization within the Department of Local Affairs to promulgate and issue necessary emergency rules to extend filing deadlines.
Loan and Grant Programs
The following list of primary Colorado loan and grant programs is non-exhaustive. View the complete list of state loan and grant programs, which includes programs for minority, women, veteran-owned, and other businesses.
Cash Collateral Support Program: The Cash Collateral Support Program creates access to capital for small and medium-sized businesses operating in Colorado that are having trouble securing credit due to shortfalls in collateral. The program provides cash as collateral for a business loan or credit facility when a business cannot meet the lender’s collateral requirements.
Colorado COVID Relief Fund: Through the Colorado COVID Relief Fund, nonprofit organizations, local governments, school districts, and limited small businesses can apply for grants of up to $25,000 if they meet specific criteria including organization type, population served, and proof they meet a community-driven need through their programs and services within one of the priority areas of prevention, impact and recovery.
Community Development Block Grant Business Loan Funds: Community Development Block Grant Business Loan Funds may be available to hemp businesses operating in specific areas of the state. These programs provide financial assistance in the form of loans and loan guarantees to businesses.
Colorado Microloans: Colorado Microloans are available to start-ups and small businesses that cannot get traditional financing. Requirements include having no more than fifteen employees, documentation by the lender as an underserved small business, is a for-profit entity located in Colorado with a majority of employees working in Colorado, the lender believes borrower has substantial possibility to become a viable businesses, and meets underwriting standards.
Small Business Administration Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program: Governor Polis announced that Colorado small businesses impacted by COVID-19 can seek individual small business loans up to $2M as part of the Small Business Administration’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. According to SBA’s internal standard operating procedures, loans are generally available to any business that grows, produces, processes, distributes or sells products made from hemp in accordance with the 2018 Farm Bill. These loans may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that can’t be paid because of the disaster’s impact. However, it is unclear which businesses will be accepted pursuant to the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program; eligibility may be determined on a case by case basis. Applicants are encouraged to apply online.
- Strategic Fund Incentive: The Strategic Fund Incentive provides cash incentives to businesses that create and maintain permanent new jobs. To be eligible, businesses must create and maintain new jobs for at least one year prior to receiving the incentive.
The programs compiled below are examples of programs available in larger localities but do not include all local relief programs that may be available in Colorado. There may be additional programs available for cannabis businesses and we encourage you to explore Colorado’s COVID-19 Business Resources. Please contact us to determine available programs in your jurisdiction(s) of operation.
Denver Economic Development & Opportunity Small Business Emergency Relief Program: The Denver Office of Economic Development & Opportunity has established the Small Business Emergency Relief Program. This program connects small businesses in Denver with the most appropriate resources available in the area and can provide up to $7500 in funding to the most vulnerable businesses.
Denver Late Tax Payment Penalty Waiver: The Denver Department of Finance (DOF) will waive the 15% penalty for late payment of February and March sales, use, and occupational privilege taxes due March 20 and April 20, 2020. The return must be filed, and funds remitted, within 30 days of the due date. DOF will evaluate the extension of the waiver on a month-by-month basis. More information is available here.
Denver Metro Small Business Development Center Health Crisis Assistance: The Denver Metro Small Business Development Center offers free one-on-one consulting and a variety of online resources. Consultants are available to help small businesses secure funding.
The Denver Microloan Program: The Denver Microloan Program provides loans from $5000 to $50,000. The program focuses on targeted industries in vulnerable areas. More information about the program can be found here.
Boulder Eviction Postponement: Boulder County has deprioritized and postponed evictions for non-payment of rent until May 31, 2020. Individuals are still obligated to pay all rent that accrues during this time.
Boulder Small Business Development Center Small Business Disaster Preparedness: Boulder Small Business Development Center (BSBDC) is helping small businesses connect to federal, state and local resources. BSBDC will conduct phone and online consulting meetings by appointment and will hold workshops and special programming online. More information is available here.
Colorado Springs Late Tax Payment Penalty Waiver: The City of Colorado Springs will waive penalty and interest charges for late payment of February and March sales and use taxes for businesses that are unable to meet these due dates due to impacts of COVID-19. The February and March sales and use tax payment deadlines will remain in place and waivers will be granted on a case-by-case basis. For more information contact (719) 385-5903 or SalesTax@coloradosprings.gov.
Colorado Springs Utility Assistance: Colorado Springs Utilities will not disconnect any customers due to non-payment. A Skip a Payment program is also available which allows customers to skip a payment that will be added to future bills. Payment plans are also available for those unable to make payments. More information is available here.
The Survive and Thrive Fund: The Survive and Thrive Fund was created by the City of Colorado Springs in partnership with Exponential Impact and Pikes Peak Community Foundation to provide relief loans, mentorship, and resources for small businesses. Businesses with 2-25 employees in the Pikes Peak region are eligible to receive up to $25,000 in low-interest loans. Industries that were impacted by COVID-19, such as the food industry, retail shops, and other businesses that were forced to temporarily close are the highest priority.
Fort Collins Small Business Relief and Recovery Loan Fund: The City of Fort Collins has created the Small Business Relief and Recovery Loan Fund to help impacted small businesses quickly access working capital loans to protect businesses and jobs in Fort Collins. Applications for the fund are not yet available but check here for updates.
Fort Collins Tax Deferral: The City of Fort Collins is allowing businesses to defer tax payments for sixty days. Interest and penalties will also be waived. To qualify, businesses must have an average monthly sales tax remittance in 2019 of $2,000 or less, or current tax filings of $2,000 or less per month. Businesses must apply to the Sales Tax Department and receive a positive confirmation to be approved for deferred payments.
Larimer County Small Business Development Center Small Business Disaster Preparedness: Larimer County Small Business Development Center (SBDC) is helping small businesses connect to federal, state and local resources. SBDC will conduct phone and online consulting meetings by appointment and will hold workshops and special programming online. More information is available here.