Polis Colorado

The associated press file Gov. Jared Polis holds up his face mask in May to make a point during a news conference on the state’s efforts against the spread of the coronavirus in Denver.

With President Donald Trump and Congress failing to reach a stimulus deal, Gov. Jared Polis said Wednesday the state will send a one-time $375 payment to many Coloradans who have been out of work during the coronavirus pandemic.

Under Polis' executive order, the aid will go to those who earned less than $52,000 a year and qualified for unemployment benefits beginning in late March. Polis said he expects about 435,000 Coloradans will receive the payment.

Recipients will not have to apply for the payment, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment said.

"All Coloradans who were eligible to receive between $25 and $500 in weekly unemployment insurance benefits — including Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), and other programs — between March 15, 2020 and Oct. 24, 2020, are eligible to receive the one-time payment," the state department said in a statement.

Money for the payments totaling $168 million will come from a variety of sources, including the state's emergency fund and money that was budgeted elsewhere and not spent by the state in the past year, Polis said.

Polis said he hopes the money will go out the first week of December. Those still on unemployment will receive it in their regular benefits, while those who are not still on assistance will get a direct deposit or receive a debit card, depending on their chosen method of payment, the state labor department said, adding past recipients should make sure their account information is up to date. 

The money is intended to tide over families as well as an infusion for the economy.

"That's money that will help stores and restaurants and the overall economy," Polis said.

The $3 trillion federal CARES Act gave $1,200 to individuals and $2,400 to joint tax filers. Because the money went to millions who hadn't lost their jobs, the money may been saved instead of being spent to prop up the economy reeling at the time from job losses and business closures.

The announcement was hailed by lawmakers who had worked with the governor to find money for the payments.

“Together, Colorado can bounce back stronger than before, but in order to do that, we must take charge of our own fate,"  said Senate President Leroy Garcia, a Democrat from Pueblo. "We can’t afford to wait around for Congress to step up while countless hardworking people are struggling to make ends meet. That’s why we have decided to forge our own way and get people the help they need now, regardless of federal inaction."

Sen. Paul Lundeen of Monument, speaking for his party, said Polis should have come to the Legislature for an appropriation rather than shifting funds around for the payments.

"People are hurting, and I care about that, too, but there's a right way and a wrong way to do this," he said.

House Speaker KC Becker, a Democrat from Boulder, is hopeful the money will help people get back on their feet.

"The governor’s executive order will boost the incomes of hundreds of thousands of Coloradans to help those in need make ends meet as COVID cases rise and we head into the winter,” she said in a statement.

The governor's office noted Monday afternoon that Colorado’s unemployment rate is high, 6.4% in September compared to 6.7% in August, but not as high as in other states, with low- and middle-income earners bearing the brunt of the downturn.

Colorado Politics senior political reporter

Joey Bunch is the senior correspondent and deputy managing editor of Colorado Politics. His 32-year career includes the last 16 in Colorado. He was part of the Denver Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 and he is a two-time finalist.

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