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COVID-19 relief funds coming to Colorado's minority-owned businesses, art community, entertainers

Millions of COVID relief dollars will soon be available to artists, entertainers, art venues and minority-owned businesses in the state.

DENVER — Millions of COVID-19 relief dollars will soon be available to artists, entertainers, art venues and minority-owned businesses in Colorado. 

The passage of Senate Bill 1 last week also known as the COVID-19 Relief for Small & Minority Businesses/Arts Organizations has prioritized these groups to receive $57 million in state funding.

State Representative Leslie Herod sponsored the bill. She sat down with 9NEWS to answer our questions about who qualifies for this funding and how they can apply. 

(Editor's note: Responses have been edited for context and clarity.)

9NEWS: You worked hard on Senate Bill 1, but a lot of bills didn't make it through special session. Were you expecting your bill to receive as much support as it did? 

Leslie Herod, State Rep.: Listen, I’m always surprised when we're able to make huge strides for Colorado. Not because I discredit or discount my colleagues, but because it's just something that should have been done long ago and hasn't.

We know that COVID has had a disproportionate impact on communities of color. I wanted to make sure that they were included in this bill.

I’m so excited that we were able to not only draft a bill that puts the art community and business owners of color at the heart of it, but that we were able to get it passed.

What is so great about Senate Bill 1 is that it contemplates everyone from the small business owner, to the restaurant worker, to the artists. I think that's so very important. And I'm just so proud to be able to get this done. 

What inspired you to advocate for funding for the art community of Colorado? 

LH: Creatives are the lifeblood of Colorado, right? I think it's what makes me so proud to be a Coloradan and what makes so many folks so proud to say that Colorado is their home. It's such an amazing creative sector.

In fact, Colorado is the number one state for audience participation and visits to our cultural facilities. That's amazing. But because of COVID-19, they've been shut down and unable to operate. 

That's not just the theater, for instance. That's also the sound engineer, the lighting guy or gal, right? It's the DJs. It’s all of those folks who are not working right now and are not able to access a lot of resources that have come down for COVID relief. How are they going to be able to also make it through this? That is why they're included in this bill.

How can artists and art venues access the funding available to them? 

LH: It's great because we will have multiple funding opportunities, for small businesses, for venues and artists and for small business owners of color.

For the artist side of things, you'll go to ColoradoCreativeIndustries.org or Redline Art Gallery, who will be administering the funds.

That funding opportunity should be up in the next few days. So, you don't have to hit refresh too many times just yet! But, it is coming within the next few days and we hope to have money out the door by January, if not sooner.

And minority-owned businesses? How should they apply for funding?

 

LH: For minority businesses, go to ChooseColorado.com and you will see a banner at the top of the page that says, "COVID-19 Business Resources." Click there and then within the next few days to a week, you'll see an opportunity for business owners of color. That's where you'll have the opportunity to apply for this specific funding.

If you go to the very bottom of that page sooner, you can sign up for the newsletter. You can get email alerts that will tell you exactly when the application is open. 

How soon can applicants expect to see the funding? 

LH: We're trying to get money out of the door pretty quickly here. We know that businesses are struggling. But, we also know that the businesses that are still open have less resources - less people to be able to even look on these webpages and fill out an application within a few days.

So we are going to look at a phased approach. Where folks can apply ASAP and then there'll be another round of funding available in another three weeks to a month. To give everyone the opportunity to apply.

And it isn't just financial resources, right? This aid comes in a number of forms. 

LH: I’m so excited that after listening to these small business owners - who are doing amazing work - and asking what they need, we learned they need actual people. Actual “can do” resources. Someone that can come and help them with their accounting, help them with their grant applications, help them make sure they're filing their taxes.

How complicated will the application process be? 

LH: Again, listening to folks who are doing the work, we know that we can't have a 50-page grant application and think someone's going to be able to apply, especially during these COVID times. 

We're keeping it as streamlined as possible. 

We know that this is not a silver bullet, this is not going to be everything that business owners need to make their businesses whole through this COVID time. But it is something, and we hope that it allows you to make it through to the end of this pandemic.

We will be on the other side of this soon. And we just want to make sure that our businesses don't have to shutter before then.

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