Order limits evictions and late charges, Polis assigns committee to focus on behavioral health

Special to The SUN

Gov. Jared Polis provided an update on Colorado’s response to COVID-19 on Monday.

“Safer at Home is not a return to normalcy, which means that Coloradans should continue to be responsible, stay at home when possible and wear masks when in public. This virus is having an impact on every part of our lives. We talk a lot about how this is affecting public health and our economy, but it’s equally important to recognize the impact this is having on Coloradans’ mental and behavioral health,” said Polis. “We want to ensure everyone has the resources they need during this difficult time, whether it’s related to your finances or mental health. We are all in this together and we’re going to get through this together.”

Many Coloradans have experienced substantial loss of income as a result of business closures and layoffs, hindering their ability to keep up with their rent or mortgage payments and threatening their housing security. On March 20, Polis signed an executive order addressing this issue and is now extending and strengthening that order. Executive Order D 2020 051 includes:

• No evictions or foreclosures should occur in the month of May for residential or commercial tenants, unless there is a public safety risk.

• Landlords and lenders are prohibited from charging any late fees or penalties because of an inability to pay rent or mortgage payments.

• Landlords must notify tenants of the new federal protections against evictions and foreclosures for each property. 

• The Colorado Department of Local Affairs, Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, and Department of Regulatory Agencies should work with property owners and landlords to create model repayment agreements to allow tenants the time they need to repay rent.

The full order can be read here: https://www.colorado.gov/governor/sites/default/files/inline-files/D%202020%20051%20Evictions.pdf.

As Colorado transitions to Safer at Home, many Coloradans will still be spending a lot of time at home. This pandemic is not only taking on the economy and Colorado way of life, but on Coloradans’ mental and behavioral health. State crisis hotlines are seeing a much higher call volume since the beginning of this crisis. 

Colorado Crisis Services provides free, confidential, professional, and immediate support for any mental health, substance use or emotional concern 24/7/365. Folks can call (844) 493-TALK (8255) or text “TALK” to 38255 to speak to a trained professional. Any Coloradan that needs support should reach out. 

Polis announced a new special assignment committee within the Behavioral Health Task Force that will focus on the effects of COVID-19 on behavioral health in Colorado. The special assignment committee will: 

• Create an interim report that highlights the short- and long-term impacts of COVID-19 on the behavioral health system, including access and affordability of behavioral health services, especially for vulnerable and underserved populations.

• Evaluate the behavioral health crisis response in Colorado to COVID-19 and provide recommendations for the Behavioral Health Task Force’s blueprint on improvements of behavioral health services for a response during any potential future crisis.

The Task Force is charged with providing recommendations on how to overhaul the state’s behavioral health system to ensure every Coloradan has access to mental health resources in every corner of Colorado. The recommendations were supposed to be released in June, but given the crisis, the timeline of the Task Force’s work is being extended until later in the summer.

The governor also announced that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has activated the Crisis Care Program (CCP) for the state of Colorado. The CCP provides reimbursements to local organizations that support individuals and communities as they recover from the psychological effects of disasters.

Services will be provided at no cost and are available to any survivor. Services include:

• Stress mitigation.

• Crisis counseling.

• Coping strategies.

• Emotional support.

• Education.

• Links with individuals or agencies that can help those impacted.

• And services can be provided in either a group setting or one-on-one.

The COVID Relief Fund is now distributing the second round of funding grants. The fund received 780 applications requesting more than $17 million. A total of $3.6 million will be disbursed in the second round to 165 organizations that are serving all 64 Colorado counties. 

Funding is going to community-based organizations serving displaced workers, children in low-income households, frontline workers in health care and other critical industries, workers without access to paid sick leave or health insurance, older Coloradans on fixed or lower incomes, people experiencing homelessness, people with disabilities, tribal governments, survivors of domestic violence or child abuse, immigrant and refugee communities, and black, Latino and Asian Coloradans who are disproportionately affected by this crisis. 

Through the first two rounds, $8.4 million in funding has been distributed to 371 organizations across the state. 

 

This story was posted on May 8, 2020.