The Spot: Polis never wanted federal unemployment benefits

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Thousands of Coloradans are bracing for the end of federal unemployment benefits, which will be cut off Saturday.

Gov. Jared Polis says he never wanted them here to begin with.

“We would’ve loved as Colorado to use that money in some other way. And it could have been better used for almost anything — infrastructure investments, tax cuts,” he said at the conservative Steamboat Institute’s Freedom Conference last week.

(In case you missed it, at that conference he also called for eliminating Colorado’s income tax.)

Of the federal unemployment money, he added, “I do believe, of course, our only option being to turn it down or accept it, we accepted it. And so that money entered our economy. People spent it, people saved it, they bought homes, whatever they did.”

They probably didn’t buy homes with that money. The Post has talked throughout the pandemic with people relying on unemployment benefits, and it suffices to say they’re using it on basic needs more than real estate transactions.

Anyway, Polis continued: “Absolutely, we would’ve loved to have done almost anything else with it, from investing in infrastructure and roads to cutting taxes, but it was simply expressed as, ‘Do you want this $600 million to $800 million or not?’ And we took it.”

Colorado could have opted out of these benefits sooner, as 20 states did. The thinking for those states, in large part, was that more people would return to the workforce and economic growth would pick up if folks weren’t opting for government checks over earned wages. It hasn’t exactly worked that way, as a Denver Post story from this week explains.

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Top Line

Colorado abortion providers and advocates say they’ll increase capacity as they expect Texans to seek reproductive health care out of state, now that abortion has been largely banned in that state.

Capitol Diary • By Saja Hindi and Conrad Swanson

Afghan refugees

Colorado’s refugee resettlement groups are preparing for an influx of Afghan refugees in the coming weeks, and one new state agency could help provide additional resources.

Lawmakers took steps this year to make the state more welcoming for refugees and immigrants, including by creating the Office for New Americans. HB21-1150 takes effect this month and the office has until Jan. 1 to come up with recommendations on how best to meet the goals for refugee services.

“The Office of New Americans has the power to convene state agencies to comprehensively plan for welcoming and integration,” said sponsor Rep. Iman Jodeh, an Aurora Democrat. “(The need) has never been more apparent than right now, as the state plans to welcome Afghan refugees, and the ability to continue those coordinated practices moving forward.”

The exact number of refugees who will make it to Colorado is still fluid, said Colorado Department of Human Services spokesperson Madlynn Ruble. About 40 Afghan refugees have arrived in Colorado since Aug. 1, and 53% of the people Colorado resettlement agencies helped this year have come from Afghanistan.

“Colorado has made a clear commitment to supporting our new Afghan neighbors and these services will support families to create new lives here,” Ruble said.

President Joe Biden’s administration said Wednesday that the U.S. is working to build capacity for up to 50,000 refugees at its military bases that would then be connected to resettlement agencies. It could take months before the refugees make it to their new homes, and many may settle in other countries. But Denver was previously listed as one of 19 communities that could provide a welcoming place for refugees with special immigrant visas (for those who worked with the U.S. government) to live.

That list of 19 also includes Phoenix, Atlanta, Chicago, Baltimore, St. Louis, Portland and Houston.

Mayor Michael Hancock met the news, and the city’s prospective residents, with open arms.

“As our community showed with the Syrian refugee crisis and Central American children at the southern border, Denver is ready to help and welcoming to those looking for a better life for themselves and their families,” the mayor said in a statement. “That welcoming spirit is no less diminished for those now fleeing the turmoil in Afghanistan, and we’re here to support their resettlement in any way we can.”

Earlier this week, U.S. Rep. Jason Crow, a Colorado Democrat, also introduced legislation to increase the number of special immigrant visas for Afghans.

Although Biden increased a historically low cap that former President Donald Trump set for the 2021 fiscal year ending Sept. 30, the U.S. is still expected to see a record low number of refugees resettling here this year.

More Colorado political news

  • Former Colorado Gov. Dick Lamm remembered for bold leadership, landmark legislation at memorial service
  • Gov. Jared Polis: State income tax should be “zero”
  • The federal eviction moratorium is dead. Here’s what that means for Colorado.

Federal Politics • By Justin Wingerter

Boebert pushes impeachment, again

U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert on Tuesday called for the impeachment of President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris (whose first name she mispronounced) and much of the presidential line of succession.

“It is time for action,” the Silt Republican said at a press conference about Afghanistan. “Impeach Biden, impeach Kamala Harris and throw in the secretary of state, if you can get him back from vacation. Take a vote to vacate the chair to get Nancy Pelosi the heck out of here.”

If the president and vice president are both removed from office (which has never happened), the speaker of the House becomes president. If that position is vacant, the job falls to the president pro tem of the Senate. That is Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, who is 81.

Boebert, who shocked the political world by beating then-Rep. Scott Tipton in a GOP primary last year, said any Republicans who do not go along with her plans to impeach Biden et al. “will be facing your own primaries and no amount of your precious money will be able to save you.”

This was the second time that Boebert has called for the impeachment of Biden, who has been in office for seven months. In June, she said that Biden’s immigration policy “is actually worthy of impeachment and that is what we should be doing right now.” (Under the U.S. Constitution, presidents can only be impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors, not policy decisions.)

That still puts her behind Rep. Ken Buck though. The Windsor Republican said last February — a year before Biden took office — that he could be impeached then for Hunter Biden’s actions.

More federal politics news

  • Colorado’s secretary of state sued to stop Mesa County’s clerk from running elections.
  • Then Mesa County’s deputy clerk was charged with felony burglary.
  • With the start of classes Monday, nurses in Denver Public Schools felt a more pronounced sting than normal since they’re spread thin as ever, district officials and employees said.
  • All Aurora Public Schools employees will be required to get a COVID-19 vaccination now that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration fully approved the Pfizer one.
  • All students, staff and visitors in a large swath of the metro area are required to wear masks in school, following a decision Monday evening by Tri-County Health Department officials to expand the agency’s mask mandate to kids 2 and older.

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