Cory Gardner: Colorado will get through the coronavirus pandemic together

The Denver Post
March 30, 2020

By Cory Gardner

In Colorado, the number of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) cases has now surpassed 2,300, and the true number likely is thousands more. Sadly, our state is grieving the 48 Coloradans who have lost their lives because of this deadly virus. This global epidemic is impacting every one of us, upending life as we know it and leaving the future uncertain.

Unemployment claims have skyrocketed as businesses wonder how long they can keep their doors open. Families are wondering how long they can go down this path, trying to do their part to stop the spread of COVID-19 but facing increasing uncertainty. Brave health care providers are fighting around the clock against this outbreak and are selflessly risking their personal health.

In the last few weeks, I’ve held telephone town halls in every congressional district in Colorado, speaking directly with Coloradans who have lost their jobs, are unsure how they’ll feed their family, and have endless questions about what the future holds. I’ve heard from restaurant workers in Denver who were laid off when their restaurants closed. A small business owner in Monument shared with me how difficult it was to lay off 35 dedicated staff members, but he didn’t have a choice. The other night, a constituent in El Paso County used the last pre-paid minutes on a cell phone to participate in our town hall to try and figure out where they could get food.

Coloradans everywhere are hurting because of the actions their government has ordered — and it’s the government’s responsibility to help them get through this.

Throughout this process, I’ve adopted a three-prong approach to what we as a country must do to get through the crisis: 1) Address the immediate health epidemic, 2) Make sure we provide individuals immediate assistance, and 3) Get our businesses up and running again to make sure when the health emergency is over we can have an economy that snaps back and runs strong.

To achieve this, Congress has now passed three phases of relief measures. First, we approved a historic $8.3 billion for emergency response efforts, and through this, the state of Colorado has received $9.8 million from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to support our state’s response. Congress recently passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act as phase two, to provide paid sick and family leave for working families during coronavirus and ensure that all testing will be free to Americans who need it, regardless if they have health insurance.

The third phase of our response, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, addresses all three prongs of my approach. The CARES Act provides an additional $100 billion to support our brave health care workers and hospitals on the front lines of this pandemic. An additional $150 billion is provided to support states and tribes through the Coronavirus Relief Fund.

For American families, the CARES Act provides direct financial assistance to help get them through this crisis: $1,200 for individual tax filers, $2,400 for married couples, and an additional $500 per child. It provides relief to small businesses and workers, and it creates a new “Pandemic Unemployment Assistance” program to allow far more Americans to receive financial support during the crisis, including those whose employers were forced to close. Small businesses make up 99.5% of all businesses in Colorado and employ more than 1.1 million Coloradans, and the CARES Act contains $377 billion to help prevent small businesses from going under and workers from losing their jobs.

We have much more work to do to and this isn’t the beginning or the end of Congress’ response, but the CARES Act will deliver the relief that will help us see this crisis through to the other side.

This will be possible because the American people, especially Coloradans, are resilient. In Colorado we don’t look back, we look forward. We look up to that great Rocky Mountain horizon and for the next optimistic day. Coloradans everywhere are stepping up and meeting this challenge in the spirit of our great country by donating blood, personal protective equipment, and their talents to help their neighbors get through this. Distillers are refocusing operations to produce hand sanitizer for hospitals. I’ve even been in contact with hemp businesses that believe they can produce cotton swabs for medical needs — a uniquely Colorado way to help out.

While this is a new virus, our country has overcome challenges of this magnitude before. Together we have persevered and persisted through world wars, economic disasters, the September 11 terrorist attacks, and much more. We are being challenged right now, but we will conquer this too and get through to the other side stronger than ever — and we will do it together.

Cory Gardner is a U.S. senator from Colorado.

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