Feb 5, 2021 | NEWS | By April Kwan | Jubilee Rivera-Hernandez

Recently elected Senator John Hickenlooper of Colorado has joined the group of 16 senators who are writing the next COVID-19 relief bill. Eight Republicans, seven Democrats, and one independent make up this moderate group of politicians tasked with meeting with President Joe Biden and his team to create the country’s next relief bill.

This bill will determine the next round of federal aid provided by the government to stimulate the economy and aid people in difficult financial situations as a result of the pandemic. To achieve this, money will be allocated toward specific regions, industries, services, and more. Individuals’ 2019 tax returns determined eligibility for a refundable tax credit under the CARES act, which brings up concerns about reaching everyone in need of financial assistance. COVID-19 has drastically altered many financial situations in 2020, which is unlikely to be reflected on someone’s 2019 tax returns.     

Sen. Hickenlooper has stated that his main focus in the upcoming COVID-19 relief bill is supporting small businesses. Before entering politics, Hickenlooper was himself a small business owner, having started Denver’s first brew pub in 1988.

In response to Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion dollar COVID-19 relief plan, Hickenlooper argues, “[Small businesses] make up almost 50% of the private workforce. I don’t think that [the financial support] is sufficient and I made my little pitch that this is a place that really needs to be looked at more closely.” 

Hickenlooper has also noted that “Colorado has a significant hospitality industry and small business community that has been severely hit — I think more severely hit — by COVID-19.” As a result, Colorado’s unemployment rate has grown to 8.4% from the pre-pandemic rate of 2.5%. This drastic change has had a big impact on Coloradans, especially those within the hospitality industry and small businesses. Many have been forced to close or are financially struggling to stay open. 

Hickenlooper also aims to ensure that states get the financial aid they need. He believes that Colorado was unfairly represented in the last COVID-19 relief bill because money wasn’t evenly distributed between states and local regions. Hickenlooper assured Coloradans, “I am going to do everything I can to make sure Colorado is represented fairly.”                     

Hickenlooper’s third main focus is to safely reopen schools by equipping them with the necessary resources to slow the spread of COVID-19. This includes hand sanitizer, masks, testing, vaccines, and other protective equipment. In addition, Hickenlooper wants mental health resources to be made available to students and faculty to help navigate learning during COVID-19. Providing more mental health resources would work to combat the increasing individual mental health difficulties as a result of complications from COVID-19. 

Despite Hickenlooper’s specific goals, other politicians have voiced their opinions on focusing more closely on other aspects of the economy to provide COVID-19 relief. Regardless of opinion, “I think everyone’s got a sense of urgency,” Hickenlooper mentioned in an interview. “This has to happen in real time. I think everyone also realizes there has to be a certain amount of compromise from everybody,” the senator said.

Within the group of 16 senators, there’s been a common agreement to prioritize distributing COVID-19 vaccines to everyone despite the differences of opinion about how and where to allocate government funds. Within all the debate on the national stage between politicians, it’s been left up to the bipartisan group of 16 senators to create the most beneficial COVID-19 relief bill for our country.

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