We asked what would be most helpful to your businesses and employees at this time, and you answered. In fact, more than 400 of you told us what you needed and there were four priorities that came up consistently:
- Extend tax deadlines. More than 80% of you said relief from certain taxes, like head taxes, payroll taxes or property taxes, would give you some additional flexibility. This might be a challenging ask of our government partners who are facing drastic budget cuts, but we have shared this priority because we know even deferrals would help you find the cash that would allow you to keep your employees on payroll.
- Access to capital. In that same category of needing cash, more than 90% of you shared that accessing low- or no-interest loans is key to your ability to continue to pay employees. We’re talking to lawmakers about seeking more federal funding for our state to provide grants to small businesses, replenish the unemployment trust fund and fund critical infrastructure – all of which could help support you immediately.
- Expand legal protections. You also overwhelmingly requested legal protections to support your efforts to keep employees and customers safe during the pandemic by following health departments’ best practices. This win-win approach encourages every employer to take all the all the necessary steps to protect the public and your employees and limit the spread of the virus as we get back to work.
- Limit new burdens or costs. The last thing you need right now are additional costs from new state programs or mandates – especially as you take on additional debt, like loans, to make payroll. Many of you expressed concerns about additional government-mandated expenses, especially given how little our employers control and that the spread of the virus is really determining our recovery. This concern is particularly acute for our small businesses and nonprofit members.
Specifically, you all mentioned concerns about discussions to create a state-run paid medical and family leave, which would charge both employers and employees during this time. Job #1 is getting the nearly 420,000 employees who have filed for unemployment over the past seven weeks back to a job they could actually request leave from.
You shared other ideas for our policymakers, too. One idea is to reward employers through tax incentives or credits for behaviors they want to incentivize like keeping employees on payroll, expanding health benefits, hiring even in this time of uncertainty or allowing and even encouraging employees to work remotely.
Another idea is to amend the existing Colorado Enterprise Zone Program to include the entire state. The program’s administration already exists and has been effective in incentivizing job creation, capital investment and employer-sponsored health care. New, existing and small and large companies are eligible for credits, making it a program that would work for many of you.
We’re also advocating that leaders seek additional federal assistance to keep Colorado’s unemployment insurance trust fund solvent, delaying the need to assign a surcharge to businesses that continue to employ Coloradans. We know that a surcharge would be among those additional costs that that you don’t need.
Please continue to tell us what you and your employees need. Many of you have found ways to work remotely and some of you are opening your workplaces this week to a very different environment than you left two months ago.
We are focused on returning our economic activity to a level that allows all of us to thrive again. One where every person in Colorado reaps the benefits. We know that by working together, sharing ideas and overcoming challenges, we will rise faster and stronger while ensuring we don’t increase the risks associated with the virus.
Kelly Brough is the president and CEO of the Denver Metro Chamber.