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Bill To Aid Rural Communities During Hard Times

downtown Paonia, Grand Ave Paonia
Laura Palmisano

A Colorado Senate bill introduced last week aims to help rural communities during times of economic crisis. 

SB15-036 seeks to give emergency assistance grants to rural communities during times of economic hardship. The bill is sponsored by freshman Senator Kerry Donovan who represents state Senate District 5. The district covers seven counties on the Western Slope including Delta, Hinsdale and Gunnison. 

Donovan says the bill would allow the state to react quickly when there’s an economic emergency in a community like a plant shutdown or industry-wide layoffs.

"Its aim is to minimize population lose in rural towns," she says. "So that we can get in there and try and empower families to make a choice to stay in their communities because then the schools keep their kids, main street businesses keep their customers, [and] health care facilities continue to have enough people to stay open."

Donovan says she was inspired to write the proposed legislation after nearly 400 coal miners lost their jobs in Delta County.

"The idea [is that] the grant program would temporarily expand assistant programs," she says. "And, we’re trying to keep that concept of assistance programs very broad so that the county can tell the state what it needs."

The assistance program would be overseen by the Colorado Department of Local Affairs. And, it calls for $2 million from the state general fund to be set aside for the program.

The bill has been assigned to the State, Veterans, & Military Affairs Committee for review. 

Editor's Note: An earlier version of the story stated Donovan represented six counties. That is incorrect. Sen. Donovan represents seven counties. 

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