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Colorado creates economic council to address virus fallout

Posted: 4:34 PM, Mar 20, 2020
Updated: 2020-03-20 21:10:12-04
jared polis coronavirus covid-19

DENVER (AP) — In the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, Gov. Jared Polis announced Friday an executive order to expedite state unemployment claims, defer state personal and business income tax payments to July 1, allow consumers to defer loan payments without penalty and prevent mortgage foreclosures.

Colorado is also creating an emergency economic council to take short- and long-term steps to weather fallout from the coronavirus crisis and promote eventual economic recovery, Polis said Friday.

Polis insisted at a Capitol news conference his administration is ramping up efforts to salvage Colorado’s economy and ensure the state has the health infrastructure to confront the crisis, which will grow in coming weeks, and avoid what he called “a catastrophic breach” of that capacity.

“While the public health crisis will touch many of us and many of you will experience illness and loss, the economic crisis will touch all of us. And we want to get, to the extent possible, ahead of that,” Polis said.

Former Denver Mayor Federico Pena, who is heading the new economic panel, said it will address every sector of the state’s diversified economy, from agriculture to energy. Details are forthcoming.

Polis declined to rule out the eventual possibility of some form of shelter-in-place order to slow the virus’ spread.

State tax authorities will work with municipalities to help them delay local collections from Colorado’s 2.5 million individual and business taxpayers, he said.

Polis also called on federal authorities and Congress to “think big” in increasing federal funding of Medicaid, cash payments to citizens, food assistance benefits, tax relief and child care. He said Colorado recently received personal protective equipment from the federal stockpile but not enough to meet projected needs. He praised Colorado firms that are moving ahead with manufacturing face masks and other equipment.

Once more supplies are in hand “in a matter of weeks,” hospitals will be able to resume elective procedures, he said. A state order Thursday postponed those procedures to allow hospitals to address the pandemic.

Polis said restaurants and bars with alcohol licenses that were shut down by a statewide order will be able to sell alcohol for takeout and delivery as a way to slightly ease the pain those firms are enduring.

Colorado’s state health insurance market also is offering a two-week enrollment period for individuals who don’t have insurance in a move to help residents affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. In addition, residents who lose their jobs and their employer-based coverage will be able to enroll in an individual health insurance plan on the exchange.

More than 275 people have tested positive for the virus statewide, and four — all elderly — have died.

For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover.