DU Alumna is Helping Colorado Rebound From COVID-19
When Gov. Jared Polis put together a task force to look at the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on Colorado, he enlisted some heavy hitters in the state’s business and nonprofit worlds. Chaired by former Denver Mayor Federico Peña, the Council on Economic Stabilization and Growth includes Deborah Jordy, executive director for the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District; Dick Monfort, owner and CEO of the Colorado Rockies; and Brad Feld, co-founder of the Foundry Group.
The council also includes one of DU’s own — Cary Kennedy (JD ’95), a Sturm College of Law alumna who ran against Polis in the 2018 governor’s race and subsequently joined his office as senior advisor for fiscal policy. Kennedy has been involved in public finance in state and local government for almost 30 years, starting in Gov. Roy Romer’s administration in the 1980s.
“Gov. Polis [created the council to tap] the expertise of leaders from all over the state to really understand how the shutdown was impacting families and businesses, from small independent contractors to small businesses, storefronts all the way up to large corporations,” she says, “and making sure Colorado is doing everything we can to access all the help and support we can get for our families and businesses that are struggling.”
After examining short- and long-term impacts for several weeks, the council recently released its recommendations, which include extending tax credits for renewable energy; supporting relief for chambers and destination marketing organizations that help attract tourism to Colorado; finding ways to get stimulus funds to residents who aren’t legal U.S. citizens; and asking the U.S. Forest Service to stop charging rent to ski areas located on public lands.
“We were one of the first states to empanel a group looking specifically at economic recovery — looking at the short-term, immediate needs of businesses that are either closed or seeing substantial reductions in their operations, and then the long term,” Kennedy says. “What does it look like as the economy re-opens, as we move into a new normal where we’re keeping the public safe but also letting folks get back to work? It’s an evolving picture.”
The council is keeping in mind Colorado’s unique economic needs, she says, including the importance of tourism, agriculture and the oil and gas industry. Though the state’s economy was in a stronger position than many going into the crisis — with lower unemployment and a higher per-capita income — the effects still are immediate and challenging for businesses that have been closed or seen their operations significantly reduced. That’s just as true for individuals who have lost their paychecks.
“The governor has been aggressive about making sure that the federal dollars are available to Colorado businesses,” Kennedy says. “Forty-two thousand businesses have received Paycheck Protection Program loans from the federal government, and our businesses have drawn down more money than we would expect. We’ve been well-positioned to make sure our businesses are able to access those federal dollars, so that will provide good, strong support to our communities across the state. Same on unemployment benefits. Even though an unprecedented number of unemployment applications came in, the state really took the steps that needed to be taken to be sure that people are able to access their unemployment benefits so that they can weather this time when they may not be maintaining their income.”
As businesses across the state begin to reopen and adjust to the new normal, Kennedy says she’s optimistic, given the support she has seen so far across all sectors of the economy.
“The banks in Colorado have really stepped up and are doing everything they can to help support the businesses and the families in their communities,” she says. “You hear stories of apartment building owners who are delaying their rent payment deadlines, and across the state you hear wonderful stories about people who are stepping up and helping out and recognizing this is an unprecedented challenge and we’re going to get through this together.”