A Message from the Governor’s Community Engagement team

Community Leaders,

Analysse here with the Governor’s Community Engagement team! In an effort to continue to provide you with an official update from the Governor’s office, below includes some updates and information that the Governor provided yesterday. We appreciate your support in helping to spread these updates to your network.

Quick Links to Stay Up to Date

Topline Update

As of today we have 4,174 cases, 105 deaths, and 806 hospitalizations out of 22,071 completed tests. We are thinking of these families and communities during these trying times.

Yesterday the Governor provided updates on relief for businesses and workers and explained what resources are available and how to access them, testing capacity and containment strategies and other new efforts to help stop the spread. You can view the slides from his presentation here.

How you can help with economic recovery support

The better job we do at staying home and limiting physical interactions to contain the virus in Colorado, the sooner we can return to something resembling economic normalcy. Conversely, failure to stay at home will only extend the economic pain, and it could mean many thousands of fatalities in our state like our parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends.

As Coloradans have made personal sacrifices to prioritize the public health and safety of residents across our state, we know that these actions have a real impact on our normal economic activities. Businesses and employees that were part of Colorado’s thriving economy only weeks ago are now sidelined as we do everything we can to deal with the crisis at hand.

State-Level Tax Extensions

At the state level, we are doing what we can to provide as much relief as possible while we weather the storm. We have been working hard to make sure families and businesses that are not getting paid are given more time to file and pay their taxes.

The Governor announced several days ago that we are waiving all penalties and interest so that people and businesses can extend the payment date for their state income tax from April 15 to July 15, which will help leave over money pockets of families and businesses across the state for three months to help weather this crisis.

Yesterday the Governor announced that we are offering a one-time 30 day extension for businesses to file and remit their state sales tax.  This also includes local sales taxes for 272 state-collected local taxing jurisdictions. This means, state sales taxes that are owed on April 20 do not need to be paid until May 20 with no penalty or interest.

Recently, the Governor signed an executive order that allows local governments to waive penalties and interest for property tax payments through April 20, but announced that he is extending it to May 1, which is the full 30 days that he is allowed under an executive order. And for property owners that are worried about paying their property tax in April, you can now split your property tax payment into two installments, so you can pay half in April and half in June without penalties or interest. Taxpayers who want to split their payment should reach out to their county treasurer. 

We’re doing everything we can to help business and make sure our communities are taken care of. Yesterday, the Governor also signed an executive order that extends several deadlines for businesses that have to submit valuation reports to their county assessors. This will ease the administrative burden on thousands of businesses across our state. Read the Executive Order here.

Federal Stimulus

We know that families and businesses are hurting as the COVID pandemic is disrupting economic activity in our state. The $2 trillion dollar stimulus package, otherwise known as the CARES Act, which was signed last Friday, offers economic assistance for the millions of Coloradans who have felt the economic pain of this national health crisis and now feel the strain of financial obligations.

The measure offers $1,200 in one-time direct cash assistance; over 90% of Colorado families will qualify. It also provides $500 per child 16 and under.

  • An individual that makes less than $75,000 will receive the full $1,200 benefit.
  • For every $100 in income an individual makes over $75,000, $5 is deducted from the total benefit.
  • As a result, an individual making over $99,000 would not qualify for this benefit.
  • For couples filing jointly, the numbers double. If your household makes less than $150,000, you will receive $2,400 total. 
  • Just like an individual filer, the benefit is reduced by $5 for each $100 you make over $150,000.
  • As a result, if your household makes more than $198,000, you would not qualify for this benefit.
  • The $500 per child is provided regardless of income.

And YES, you qualify even if you don’t normally have to file taxes, like Social Security recipients, those who receive SSI Disability, and railroad retirees do not have to file to get benefits. Please visit IRS.gov/coronavirus for more information.

Regular Unemployment Insurance

The federal legislation also includes extra unemployment benefits — $600 per week for four months — to help those who have lost their jobs or lost wages get through this tough time. This week was the largest spike in unemployment insurance claims in American history with 6.6 million Americans filing.

We want to thank you for your patience, and I’m glad that the issues that we were facing the last few weeks with the online filing system have been mostly ironed out. We are continuing to encourage anyone who may qualify for traditional unemployment insurance to file online at ColoradoUI.gov:

By traditional, we mean you are a W2 type employee who was laid off or lost hours due to no fault of your own, including COVID-19. You could be eligible for 26 weeks of regular unemployment benefits from the state of Colorado. Unemployment insurance in Colorado provides around 55% of an individual’s average weekly pay, up to a maximum $618 per week. In addition to those benefits from the state, you could be eligible for the $600 extra per month for the first four months of unemployment thanks to the federal stimulus package.

Furthermore, once you have exhausted your 26 weeks of state unemployment, you would be eligible for another three months of unemployment paid for by the federal legislation. If you have already filed and qualified, then you will not need to file again to get the additional $600 per week from the federal bill added to your weekly benefit. 

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance

But we know that not everyone is a traditional W2 employee; there are many folks in the gig economy who have lost work and wages due to this crisis. For non-W2 workers, CDLE is working to stand up a separate system to accept these non-traditional workers (independent contractors, gig workers, etc.) that would only qualify under Pandemic Unemployment Assistance which is a new program passed by the federal government in the CARES Act.

Please keep a close eye on coloradoUI.gov for the most up to date information about the department’s implementation of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.

How to file for Unemployment

If you are applying, be sure to take extra care when going through the application and save your work frequently; it is hard to make changes after you file.

  • Step 1: Collect any income related information.
  • Step 2: Go to coloradoUI.gov and click on the “Workers” button.
  • Step 3: Review your claim before you hit submit.
  • After you file, you should receive a PIN in the mail to launch your claimant account and finish out the process, including requesting payments. 
  • You’ll be paid within two weeks.
  • Step 4: Register with your local Workforce Center

Paycheck Protection Program

Last week, the Governor announced that he secured access to the Small Business Association’s low-interest Economic Injury Disaster Loans for Colorado businesses in all 64 counties.

Additionally, the federal stimulus act has set aside $349 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses, independent contractors, the self-employed, and nonprofits. This new program offers direct assistance in the form of forgivable loans for two-and-a-half months of your average monthly payroll expense. The idea is that instead of laying people off and having them go on unemployment, we can help small businesses make payroll and stay in business so folks can keep getting a paycheck from their employer.

Small businesses and sole proprietors can now apply for forgivable loans. Next Friday April 10th, independent contractors can begin applying for these forgivable loans. Visit OEDIT’s website at choosecolorado.com. Visit the SBA’s website at sba.gov/ppp for more information.

Current Testing Status and Capacity

We have made significant progress in terms of testing. About a month ago, we could only process 160 tests per day. Today we are processing about 2000 tests per day.

Colorado has the capacity, the technology, and the equipment to run over 10,000 tests per day, but we simply do not have enough testing supplies such as swabs or enough reagent. Hospital systems have been going above and beyond. Denver Health, UCHealth, National Jewish, Children’s Hospital have developed their own tests and are performing hundreds of tests per day. And local Public Health Agencies in Mesa, Larimer, and El Paso counties are standing up testing sites. We are grateful that everyone is pitching in because this is a situation where we see the state government, local government, and the private sector working together to fill the need. But if we want to have the sort of mass testing and containment program that will allow us to return to a level of economic normalcy, we are going to need more supplies, and the federal government and private suppliers need to step up.

One of our Wildly Important Goals is rapidly working to get supplies to ramp up testing. The second Wildly Important Goal is to expand our testing capacity. Right now we’re able to process 2,000 tests per day. In two weeks, the Governor would like to see us processing 3,500 tests per day. By the end of April, he wants us processing at least 5,000 daily.

We can only do this with an adequate supply of tests (i.e., swabs and reagent). When we are able to get this mass testing regime in place, that is one of the boxes that we need to check before we can return to economic normalcy. But as much as we are experiencing a healthcare crisis brought to us by a novel virus we are experiencing a crisis in the supply chain. Rest assured that we are doing everything we can to procure more tests.

And we are asking that folks make or purchase homemade masks instead of using medical masks like N95s, or medical surgical masks, which must be reserved for medical workers. They are at a much higher risk, and we need to keep them safe and healthy so they can tend to those who fall ill. N95s for health care workers; Cloth face coverings for everyone else.

The Colorado Mask Project

If you’ve been around in grocery stores recently, you may have noticed that more people are wearing cloth face coverings or home-made masks out in public. Making that part of our routines will be an important step in reducing the spread of the virus so we can save lives and return to a functioning economy.

We are asking all Coloradans to wear non-medical, cloth face coverings when they go out of the house for Necessary Activities like grocery shopping. At this point, a cloth face covering or a home-made mask should be part of our distancing and personal hygiene practices. 

Wearing something over your nose and mouth can provide an additional layer of protection for those who must go out. The spread of the virus occurs primarily through droplets from an infected individual’s mouth or nose, which fabrics can filter. Data also suggests up to 1 in 4 people infected with COVID are asymptomatic and may be spreading infected respiratory droplets without knowing they are infected. Furthermore, patients may be asymptomatic for days before they start showing symptoms. By wearing a non-medical mask, you are protecting others even if you don’t know you’re sick. When face coverings are combined with frequent hand washing and appropriate physical distancing, they help reduce the transmission of infections. Wearing face coverings can also send a message to others not wearing a face covering that we need to change our behavior to combat this virus. Finally, face coverings are a good way to protect yourself and help you remember not to touch your face which is another key step in preventing infection. 

Thankfully we all have a lot more time on our hands these days. To facilitate this effort, we need everyone’s help. We have partnered with the grassroots group ColoradoMaskProject.com, where you can find patterns for making your own masks and ideas for how you can help others who can’t make their own, get one. For this to be successful we all need to help out. Call your neighbors and see who needs a mask, have a virtual mask making party with your extended family or friend group or book club. It’s human nature to go along with a trend. As more residents start wearing masks, others will follow, and every person wearing a face covering will have an impact on reducing viral spread. So let’s make it cool!

A Message from Nathaniel Rateliff:

Pet Adoption

One of the best ways to refocus our attention in a positive way is by opening our hearts and homes to a new pet. There are so many animals in our state’s animal shelters and pet animal rescues that are looking for their forever homes. For these reasons, we have temporarily relaxed state regulations, making it easier to foster and adopt pets who would otherwise be spending this time waiting for someone to give them a chance at a happy life. It’s a win-win for people and pets.

And, despite rumors to the contrary, you CAN’T catch COVID-19 from your pets. Pets are safe to have in your homes, and they will be a comfort to you in these trying times, when so many of us are feeling isolated and perhaps lonely. We have created a guide of licensed shelters and rescues, organized by city and county, so you can easily find an animal in-need closest to where you live. We encourage you all to visit protectcoloradosanimals.org to find your nearest local shelter or rescue. 

We greatly appreciate your helping to share information during this crisis. We will continue to send these regular updates. As always, please feel free to reach out to me with any questions or needs from our office. My cell phone is 210-385-7556. Stay home. Stop the Spread. Save Lives. We are all in this together!