Washington, D.C. — Last week, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet traveled across Colorado, meeting with public health officials and health care workers, small business owners, elected officials, and community leaders to discuss Colorado’s priorities as the state responds to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) crisis. Throughout the week, Bennet heard firsthand from Coloradans about the pandemic’s effects on their communities and how they would like Congress to help.
“Anyone who’s been paying attention knows that the economic inequality and injustices we’re seeing as a result of COVID-19 have plagued our communities for decades. The lack of investment in our health care system, our workforce, and our rural infrastructure has been laid bare by this pandemic – and many of the health care providers, small businesses, and farmers and ranchers I heard from last week are hurting as a result,” said Bennet. “As Congress begins negotiations on the next relief package, the needs of the Coloradans I heard from last week – like expanding our public health workforce, supporting the hardest-hit small businesses, extending unemployment benefits, and investing in our infrastructure – are the priorities I’ll be pushing for this week.”
COVID-19 Update with the Colorado Association of Local Public Health Officials
Bennet began his tour on Monday, July 13, by sitting down with Colorado public health officials to hear about their efforts to respond to the pandemic and what support they need from the federal government. He met with Liane Jollon, Board President of the Colorado Association of Local Public Health Officials (CALPHO), and other CALPHO board members who joined virtually.
Bennet visits San Juan Basin Public Health and meets with Liane Jollon, Board President of CALPHO, as well as additional CALPHO board members via Zoom
Jollon on why we need a Health Force:
“We are grateful to Senator Bennet for visiting San Juan Basin Public Health earlier this week to hear feedback about COVID-19 testing capacity, disease containment, and long-term sustainability for public health from local public health directors throughout the state,” said Jollon. “We appreciate the senator’s efforts to create a national Health Force that would ramp up testing and contact tracing effort and support public health professionals as we continue to face the effects of this pandemic and strive to improve public health in communities across the state."
Public health officials need federal support for testing, contact tracing, and other essential public health efforts to protect Coloradans and safely reopen the economy. In April, Bennet and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) proposed a national Health Force to train hundreds of thousands of Americans to support our public health workforce. On Tuesday, July 14, Bennet also visited Montrose Memorial Hospital to hear directly from health care workers on the front lines, and discussed his legislation to provide financial relief for hospitals.
North Fork Valley Agriculture and Water Infrastructure Tour
On Wednesday, July 15, Bennet toured water infrastructure improvement projects in the North Fork Valley, first stopping at Bill Houseweart’s local farm to meet with farmers, ranchers, and water community leaders. Afterward, Bennet stopped along the Fire Mountain Canal to view a recent water infrastructure improvement project.
Bennet surveys the water infrastructure project at Fire Mountain Canal
Colorado River District on the importance of water infrastructure to the West:
“While there has been a lot of talk recently about the critical need to fund infrastructure projects, these conversations have put little focus on the importance of water infrastructure to the West,” said Andy Mueller, General Manager of the Colorado River District. “We thank Senator Bennet for traveling to see these projects first-hand and engaging with us to improve water infrastructure for communities across the state.”
During the tour, Bennet discussed the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) and the importance of investing in water infrastructure and conservation projects in the West. As Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee Conservation, Forestry, and Natural Resources Subcommittee, Bennet helped to author the original RCPP authority in the 2014 Farm Bill, and supported improvements to streamline RCPP in the 2018 Farm Bill. In 2015, the Lower Gunnison River Basin received $8 million in federal funding for water quality projects, including the Fire Mountain Canal. These funds have been used by local stakeholders to leverage additional funding for future projects.
RESTART Act Day of Action at Boulder Theater with The Lumineers
On Thursday, July 16, Bennet wrapped up his RESTART Act day of action at Boulder Theater with Wesley Schultz and Jeremiah Fraites of The Lumineers, along with Cheryl Liguori and David Weingarden from Z2 Entertainment. The group emphasized how Bennet’s bipartisan RESTART Act with U.S. Senator Todd Young (R-Ind.) would help independently-owned music venues stay afloat through this crisis.
From Left to Right: Schultz, Bennet, and Fraites outside of Boulder Theater
Wesley Schultz and Jeremiah Fraites of The Lumineers on what’s at risk if Congress doesn’t pass the RESTART Act:
"I don't think things will get back to where they were if every place that we love closes down,” said Schultz. “When we were starting to tour for the first five years or so, independent music venues were the only places that would ever let us in, so that we could develop into whatever we'd become. For me, these venues are a breeding ground for my favorite bands, and they also define the city. So, we have to take care and be proactive."
“Places like this are the first to close and the last to reopen. I think people really need music and culture, and that's really what's going to save us after this kind of upside down here, so thank you to Senator Bennet for putting this bill forward,” said Fraites. “Without places like this, The Lumineers don’t exist, you know, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Coldplay, all these bands that we love and that impact people’s lives in a meaningful way. That’s what we’re really going to need in 2021."
The RESTART Act is designed to help America’s hardest-hit businesses survive through the end of the year. Music venues were some of the first businesses to shut down due to COVID-19 and will likely be some of the last to reopen. Without proposals like the RESTART Act, nearly 90 percent of independently-owned music venues across the country are in jeopardy of closing their doors for good.