June 7, 2022
Polis Signs To Create Online Resource Portal For Agriculture Workers
A new law signed by Governor Jared Polis aims to strengthen protections for agricultural workers by making access to information about their rights under state and federal laws easier to obtain.
The measure creates an online resource portal available in English and Spanish. It will include resources for mental health, workplace safety, links to relevant state and federal agencies, and a calculator that will assist business owners in determining worker pay based on their schedule.
Lawmakers tasked the Department of Agriculture in developing the online portal, with the agency receiving $100,000 in funding to do so.
This comes as Colorado lawmakers seek to ease tension from Ag employers and workers over last year’s legislation that aimed to improve working conditions for farm and ranch employees.
Last year’s legislation included overtime protections, minimum workplace housing standards, and collective bargaining rights.
Since the passage of last year’s legislation, farmworker advocates have sued the state over its overtime rules that they say gutted the intent of last year’s legislation.
Governor Signs New Law Helping Wage Theft Victims Claim Lost Wages
Governor Jared Polis has signed a bill aimed to help workers collect legally earned back wages. The law empowers the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) and the Attorney General to help workers collect back wages when CDLE finds that the wages remain unpaid.
The law allows CDLE to place liens on employer property, creates a worker protection unit in the Attorney General’s office, and ensures that all workers are protected from retaliation for filing a wage theft claim.
The group Towards Justice, a nonprofit law firm that represents workers, claims that employers keep $750 million in legally earned wages from Colorado workers each year. They add that most workers never get that money back, not even those who the CDLE has determined that the workers did earn that money.
Denver City Council Votes To Expand House Affordability Guidelines
Denver City Council approved three measures last night to expand housing affordability guidelines for new developments, regardless of if they are residential or non-residential. According to the Denver Gazette, around 50 individuals spoke at last night’s public hearing.
Under the guidelines, a certain number of affordable units must be developed alongside market-rate condos and apartments or builders will need to pay a fee to offset construction of affordable units elsewhere. Zoning and financial incentives are also a part of the guidelines.
The guidelines apply to new developments of 10 units or more and if new construction is less than 10 units, builders will pay a one-time linkage fee to go towards the city’s Affordable Housing Fund.
Denver Vote On Hotel Shelter Contract Extension Postponed
The future of a project to use a vacant Denver hotel to house homeless individuals is in limbo after Denver City Council member Debbie Ortega requested a postponement on a vote to extend the agreement. The city currently uses the downtown Aloft Hotel to provide food and shelter for those who are unhoused and at a high risk of contracting the coronavirus.
Denver began using the hotel at the start of the pandemic and because of a recent uptick in COVID-19 cases, city officials want to continue using 140 rooms for another six months. According to the Denver Gazette, many individuals temporarily housed at the hotel are older residents with severe health issues or using wheelchairs, walkers, or oxygen tanks.
Ortega’s explanation for postponing the vote is that she was not present for the committee discussion on the resolution and that she has more questions, including how the city will transition clients from the program and how extending the agreement will affect the city’s general fund.
The hotel occupancy extension is estimated to cost the city around $13 million – or a room rate of $95 per day.
Broomfield Sued For Pulling Out of Jefferson Parkway Public Highway Authority
The City of Arvada and Jefferson County filed a lawsuit last week against Broomfield over its withdrawal from the joint authority seeking to build a highway connecting Broomfield with State Highway 93 north of Golden.
The planned ten mile stretch of highway called the Jefferson Parkway will add to the roadways circling the Denver metro area, comprising C-470, E-470, and the Northwest Parkway.
The Denver Post reports Arvada and Jefferson County filed the lawsuit in Jefferson County Court and are asking the Court to order Broomfield to convey the land and rights-of-way within its jurisdiction to complete the Parkway.
The entities are claiming the parkway’s completion is not possible without Broomfield’s cooperation. The entities further assert that Broomfield’s withdrawal threw the project into disarray and leaves no way for Arvada and Jefferson County to recoup taxpayer money spent on the project.
Broomfield withdrew its participation from the parkway authority in February 2020, citing an elevated reading of plutonium discovered within the proposed path of the highway, which is next to the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge and former nuclear weapons manufacturing plant.
Boulder Offering ARPA Funded Grants To Small Businesses and Child Care Facilities
The City of Boulder has opened the application period for grants targeted for local small businesses who continue to feel the impacts of the pandemic. According to the city’s press release, Boulder is launching two business relief programs, one focused on small businesses and the other on child-care operations.
The small business grant program will provide $400,000 in non-repayment awards and the city’s child care grant program will provide $100,000 in awards to state-licensed, non-home-based child care establishments. The grant relief is part of the city’s funding received under the federal American Rescue Plan Act.
The application period will end June 20th and small business owners may find more information at the city’s COVID-19 Business Resources webpage.