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Hickenlooper and Neguse: The rescue plan will mean money for Colorado families, schools and vaccination efforts

Hickenlooper and Neguse: The rescue plan will mean money for
Colorado families, schools and vaccination efforts 1

An unprecedented moment warrants an urgent and unprecedented response.

The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic crisis have left Colorado hurting. Hundreds of thousands of Coloradans have been infected and more than 6,000 tragically lost their lives to the virus. Colorado’s unemployment rate is still more than double what it was pre-pandemic. Forty percent of Coloradans are going hungry and thousands of small businesses have been shuttered or are on the verge of closing.

Behind each of these numbers is a family member, a neighbor, or a colleague faced with untenable circumstances. We’ve heard countless gut-wrenching stories over the past year — stories of loved ones lost, children gone hungry, evictions served, and cars repossessed.

A local artist shared that they’ve had to choose between necessities and medicine. A college student was on the brink of homelessness for the second time. One single parent who lost their job last March pleaded: “those of us who are struggling, on the brink of disaster, appreciate and dearly need assistance.”

People need help now. This much is clear.

That’s why we passed the American Rescue Plan. This bill is a comprehensive COVID-19 relief package that meets the scale and urgency of these dual crises, with significant investments for vaccines, direct relief for struggling Coloradans, and funds to reopen our schools and get kids back in the classroom.

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Vaccinating Coloradans is our number one priority. The American Rescue Plan achieves this with unparalleled resources to increase both the number of places where individuals can get vaccinated and the number of people providing and supporting vaccinations. This war-time distribution effort includes intentional targeting to reach the hardest-hit and hardest to reach populations. Our economic health is intricately tied to our public health: the economy won’t be able to reopen fully until Americans feel safe and confident, and that hinges on widespread vaccination.

The American Rescue Plan will also help reopen schools and get students back in the classroom sooner. Our teachers and kids have navigated unprecedented terrain this past year as they’ve adjusted to virtual learning. Colorado teachers are true heroes for their tireless dedication and passion amidst an ever-changing learning environment. Despite these best efforts, we know that many kids are being left behind, whether because of unreliable internet access or difficulties adjusting to the virtual classroom.

Vaccinating teachers and equipping our schools with proper ventilation and personal protective equipment is a crucial step toward reopening schools safely and getting our kids back to in-person learning. The American Rescue Plan invests significant resources in these efforts, including $1.2 billion for K-12 schools in Colorado, $495 million for our universities, and $466 million for child care centers.

The American Rescue Plan also puts money directly in the pockets of 4.7 million Coloradans. This includes $1,400 survival checks, adding to the $600 down payment enacted in December. Cash in the pockets of Coloradans will give families the breathing room they need to get through this moment. We also make direct investments in housing assistance, food aid, unemployment insurance, and a historic expansion in the Child Tax Credit, which will cut child poverty in half. That’s momentous.

When our neighbors are hurting, we cannot turn our backs. We know so many in our communities have taken on tremendous challenges over the past year, and we’ve been amazed and encouraged by those everyday acts of heroism. Our local food banks have ramped up operations to keep hungry kids and families fed. Our teachers, nurses, first responders and firefighters have doubled down in pursuit of serving our communities. And each of you have made dedicated sacrifices by staying home, maintaining your distance, and putting your loved ones and neighbors first.

The last year has tested Colorado’s resilience and shown the power of a little bit of hope. For months, we’ve promised that help was on the way. With the American Rescue Plan, that help is here.

John Hickenlooper is a U.S. senator from Colorado and the former governor. Joe Neguse is a U.S. representative from Colorado’s 2nd Congressional District.

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