Economy - John Hickenlooper for U.S. Senate

Economy

Building a Strong, Resilient Economy After COVID-19

INTRODUCTION

In mid-March, seemingly overnight, our economy shut down. The threat of an invisible yet deadly virus created an economic crisis of a magnitude not seen since the Great Depression. The fallout has been severe, lopsided, and unrelenting.

Many small businesses, struggling to come up with the money to stay afloat, have closed their doors for good. Tens of millions of Americans lost their jobs and often their health coverage in one fell swoop. Schools hastily transitioned to online learning, forcing parents to adopt dual roles of working professional and at-home teacher and widening the digital divide for households without reliable internet access. Colorado families have struggled to pay rent while billionaires reached extraordinary levels of wealth. Through it all, essential workers keep going to work, risking their lives to do the jobs that keep our cities running, grocery stores full, and population healthy. These workers, disproportionately Black and Latinx and often without adequate personal protective equipment (PPE), have seen their communities especially hard-hit by COVID-19 as a result. 

The pandemic has highlighted and often exacerbated structural inequalities that predated this crisis. Systemic racism. Income Inequality. Unaffordable housing. Stagnant wage growth. Climate change. Unaffordable health care. Crumbling infrastructure. Attacks on labor unions. And a weakened social safety net unable to meet the needs of the most vulnerable in our society. For too long, the economy has benefited the wealthiest among us, at the expense of small businesses and working families. As the richest nation on earth, we can and we must do better.  

One of the many tragedies of COVID-19 is that willful disregard of science and mismanagement at the highest levels of government worsened this needless catastrophe. When the pandemic first started, President Trump dismissed the crisis out-of-hand, wasting precious weeks when the country could have been mobilizing a strong response. He refused to model good public health behavior by wearing a mask, opposed increased testing because he didn’t like what the data had to say, and sidelined scientists from his administration’s response. And Senator Cory Gardner stood by him every step of the way. While the House passed critical COVID-19 relief legislation in May, Senator Gardner went on vacation instead of taking action—leaving Colorado families in the lurch. 

We need a problem-solver who knows how to get things done representing Colorado in the U.S. Senate, not a Donald Trump ‘yes’ man. As Governor, I helped bring Colorado’s economy from 40th in job creation to the number one economy in the nation. I know what it takes to recover from the fires, floods, and other crises that Coloradans have faced in the past. And as an entrepreneur, I have experienced firsthand the thrills and challenges of running a small business. If elected, I will draw from these experiences to rebuild our economy stronger and more resilient than before. My four-point plan calls for economic growth that is immediate, inclusive, integrated, and innovative to get our country back on track after COVID-19. 

Here’s what this plan means for Coloradans:  

  • Immediate: Help Colorado families weather the economic crisis caused by COVID-19.
  • Inclusive: End giveaways to big corporations, invest in workers, and make sure every community can benefit from Colorado’s economic success.
  • Integrated: Align the skills of the workforce with the needs of Colorado employers.
  • Innovative: Invest in the most dynamic and value-creating industries of the future.

An immediate, inclusive, integrated, and innovative economic plan will make it easier for Coloradans to earn a living wage, build and grow small businesses, and develop the skills needed to succeed in the 21st-century economy. 

IMMEDIATE

Help Colorado families weather the economic crisis caused by COVID-19 

Prioritize Public Health to Reopen the Economy: Our economy cannot fully rebound from COVID-19 until we get the present outbreak under control. But Senate Republicans, including Cory Gardner, shirked their responsibility to pass relief legislation that helps Americans stay afloat and healthy when returning to work. The government must adopt a national, equitable vaccine development and distribution strategy—one that does not cut corners in the name of politics. In the interim, the production and procurement of PPE and COVID-19 testing should continue to be a top priority to keep workers safe on the job. 

Support the Smallest Businesses: The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) has been a successful lifeline for some companies—but not everyone was able to benefit. Black and Latinx entrepreneurs, as well as many of the smallest businesses, struggled to navigate a flawed program that disadvantaged minority and small business owners who lacked pre-existing relationships with big banks. Senator Gardner personally advocated to expand the program, allowing large, publicly-traded corporations to be at the front of the line for assistance. Congress must prioritize assistance to the smallest small businesses through entities such as Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) and Minority Depository Institutions (MDI), which primarily lend to underbanked communities and communities of color. The stakes could not be higher for our 630,000 small businesses in Colorado and the 1.1 million Coloradans they employ. 

Help Local Governments Through the Economic Crisis: States and municipalities are facing severe funding shortfalls due to the pandemic, which means cuts to education programs, layoffs for public employees, dwindling unemployment funds, and canceled contracts with local businesses. Congress should provide fiscal relief to local governments to jumpstart the economic recovery in states like Colorado and prevent further decline. 

Pass Legislation to Help Coloradans get Back on Their Feet: From supplemental emergency unemployment insurance to eviction assistance and funding for schools to safely reopen, Congressional legislation is necessary to help Coloradans recover from COVID-19. The House passed a bill in May, while Mitch McConnell and Cory Gardner’s Senate spent four months bickering without passing additional relief. In the Senate, I will focus my efforts on legislation that aids the Coloradans who have been most affected by the coronavirus outbreak. We cannot afford any more delays.

INCLUSIVE

End giveaways to big corporations, invest in workers, and make sure every community can benefit from Colorado’s economic success

Fight for Working Families: In 2017, President Trump and Cory Gardner’s Senate enacted a regressive tax giveaway to wealthy families and corporations. The results were predictable: inadequate support for workers and more stock buybacks and government debt. 60 of the country’s biggest companies such as Amazon and Netflix even used the law to pay no taxes at all. Unfortunately, these actions are part of a larger pattern from Washington Republicans of supporting the wealthy at the expense of the middle class. Revenue from corporate taxes, aided by billions in targeted tax breaks, has been on the decline for decades, leaving the middle class to foot more of the bill. If elected to the U.S. Senate, I will prioritize putting money back in the pockets of working families. I support expanding and strengthening the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC), which have effectively tackled poverty and boosted incomes for countless Coloradans. I am in favor of funding critical nutrition and workforce programs such as SNAP, WIC, and TANF—lifelines during and after economic crises like COVID-19. I will fight for a public option, to boost competition and lower health care costs, which are a huge expense for many families. And I will protect Social Security—which helps millions of Americans retire with dignity—against any attempt to reduce benefits.

Help People Earn a Living Wage: For decades, the cost of living has skyrocketed and paychecks simply haven’t kept up. The value of the minimum wage has gone down by thirty-one percent from its peak in 1968. Stagnant wages put families in a more precarious financial position when the pandemic hit. This reality is unacceptable. While Senator Gardner has voted against increasing the minimum wage, I support raising it to $15 per hour, an action that would boost the pay of nearly 40 million Americans. Coloradans shouldn’t have to work multiple jobs to be on stable financial footing. A higher minimum wage could help rebuild a sense of financial security during and after this crisis.

Strengthen Labor Unions: Unions are critical to an inclusive economy. Collective bargaining lowers income inequality, raises wages, and improves working conditions for all—both members and nonmembers alike. Benefits such as the 40-hour workweek, health insurance, and pensions are all the result of worker advocacy. Yet Washington Republicans have been promoting the insidious spread of right-to-work legislation for over a decade—a national effort that has significantly weakened labor unions in our country and put the profits of big corporations above the middle class. Unions are key advocates for worker health and safety—an essential priority during the pandemic. I believe workers should have the right to organize and collectively bargain if they choose to do so, and legislation such as the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act and the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act are important steps in this direction.

Boost Fairness in our Economic System: For centuries, women and communities of color have faced gaps in wealth, gaps in pay, and gaps in opportunity, which this administration has done nothing to address. Today, these groups are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. I support legislation to boost pay equity between men and women of all races, which Senator Gardner has voted against four times. I will work to make childcare more affordable and pass paid family and sick leave legislation to strengthen the economic wellbeing of Colorado households. And I believe we must address workplace discrimination against the LGBTQ community by finally passing the Equality Act. As Senator, I will make it my mission to level the economic playing field by supporting legislation that brings opportunity closer for all Coloradans.

Support Wealth-Building Efforts in Communities of Color: The economic impact of racism is staggering. In our country today, communities of color have systematically lower levels of homeownership, a significant wealth gap, decreased access to credit opportunities, and less money saved in the bank. Over their lifetimes, for example, Black Americans can expect to earn $1 million less than white Americans. Wealth-building efforts, specifically those aimed at the Black community, will be essential to address these historic injustices. Congress can help build more equal pathways to wealth by increasing access to a quality, affordable education for all Americans, supporting homeownership in communities of color, helping minority entrepreneurs obtain affordable capital, investing in skills training initiatives and professional pipelines for high-quality jobs, addressing workplace discrimination, and so much more. Economic justice and inclusion must be a top priority for the next Congress to help communities of color recover from COVID-19 and to make our economy fairer and more resilient overall. 

Invest in Rural Economies: From the Eastern Plains to the Western Slope, Colorado’s rural communities are vital to the economy of our state. As Governor, I worked to expand broadband internet across the state, established Colorado’s Outdoor Recreation Industry Office, and made it easier to start a business through the Rural Jump-Start program. In contrast, President Trump and the Republican-led Senate have harmed rural Colorado by overseeing the largest rollback of protected public lands in U.S. history. And Cory Gardner refuses to support the CORE Act—a collaborative, locally-driven, decade-in-the-making effort to protect 400,000 acres of Colorado public lands and boost our outdoor recreation economy. If elected to the U.S. Senate, I will prioritize passing the CORE Act, as well as other public lands legislation that preserves the outdoor lifestyles of Coloradans and generates jobs and economic activity throughout our state. And I will fight to expand access to reliable, high-speed broadband internet nationwide, so rural communities can meaningfully benefit from, and contribute to, the 21st century economy.   

Advocate for Colorado Farmers and Ranchers: President Trump has been bad for Colorado agriculture. He picked a fight with China, leading to tariffs that have had catastrophic effects on farmers and ranchers in our state. Meanwhile, COVID-19 has disrupted agricultural supply chains, put farm and commercial food workers in harm’s way, and increased the volatility of meat and other food prices—all while wildfires and droughts raged with abandon. As Senator, I will fight for Colorado agriculture, as I have always done in my career. When I was governor, we collaborated with farmers and ranchers to boost agricultural exports in Colorado. In the Senate, I will make sure any trade deal ratified by the United States is to their benefit. I will work to ensure that agriculture remains a viable career path for Coloradans and that the federal government supports beginning farmers and ranchers. I will advocate for small farmers grappling with agricultural consolidation, as well as farms that adopt sustainable and regenerative practices. And I will ensure that Colorado farmers and ranchers have their voices heard during farm bill negotiations in 2022. Unlike President Trump and Senator Gardner, I will always advocate for our farming and ranching communities. 

Address Housing Inequality: Affordable housing is a fundamental necessity. During a pandemic, it is a lifeline. Yet decades of segregationist and racist housing policies have left communities of color more housing insecure than their white peers. Expansion of the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit and compliance with the 1968 Fair Housing Act are critical steps towards reducing this disparity. If elected to the Senate, I will also push for the inclusion of affordable housing in any major infrastructure package we consider, work to make sure all new federal housing units meet accessibility guidelines for individuals with disabilities, and hold lenders accountable for discrimination and predatory housing loans. 

Make Higher Education More Affordable: Higher education can be a powerful tool for economic mobility. Yet our present model is failing to deliver on this promise. For many students, the cost of college is prohibitive and the return on investment increasingly unclear. Congress has failed to respond, leaving Americans crushed by student debt. Senator Gardner has voted at least four times against allowing borrowers to refinance student loans and at least 10 times to cut funding for Pell Grants. I believe we must act swiftly to reform student loans: lowering interest rates and expanding loan forgiveness for those working in public service or rural areas. Community colleges offer flexible, industry-aligned credentials, and should be accessible tuition-free for those who need it. And I support expanding Pell Grant eligibility to include short-term workforce training to help adult learners acquire skills that help preserve their competitive edge.

INTEGRATED

Align the skills of the workforce with the needs of Colorado employers


Expand Apprenticeship Programs: Only thirty-nine percent of young people in the United States ever complete a bachelor’s degree or higher. Apprenticeships are powerful alternatives that help shift the conversation away from expensive degrees and towards the skills needed to do the job. While the Trump Administration proposed an apprenticeship program that undermines fair wages and labor standards, I helped establish CareerWise in Colorado, a job training program that provides students with valuable work experience, a paycheck in the tens of thousands, and free college credit—all while still in high school. In addition, we launched the Skillful State Network, a bipartisan community of 20 fellow governors focused on promoting skills acquisition in hiring, which continues to this day. By working in the Senate to support these types of programs nationwide, we can expand certified skills training programs to students across America, encourage employers to hire based on clearly-defined abilities, and provide workers with a pathway to well-paying, dignified work without a college degree. Doing so could close employment gaps in manufacturing, trades, rural health care, technology, and provide diverse cohorts of students the on-the-job training they need to succeed in the economy of the future.

Preparing our Workforce for the Future: Twenty-five percent of all jobs are at a high risk of automation, portending a future of mass displacement—particularly for women and workers of color. Embracing the opportunities created by technological innovation will require rethinking how we support individuals most impacted by this transition. So far, Washington has done little to address their needs. As Senator, I intend to take decisive action. First, I will boost funding for training programs and incentivize companies to retrain workers in roles that build on their existing abilities. Second, I will expand access to certified apprenticeships, which offer on-the-job preparation for new, well-paying positions. Third, I will put power back in the hands of workers in the gig economy who do not enjoy employer-provided benefits by supporting the development of portable savings and retirement accounts, and reimagining the social safety net in the process.  

INNOVATIVE

Invest in the most dynamic and value-creating industries of the future


Make it Easier to Start and Grow a Business: Business creation is central to American economic prosperity. Unfortunately, it has been declining nationwide for decades. I intend to draw upon my experience as an entrepreneur to pass legislation in the Senate to reverse this trend and strengthen our economy after the COVID-19. We must start by increasing access to affordable capital, particularly for women and minority CEOs, through expanded crowdfunding and innovation voucher programs. Congress should also leverage the ability of CDFIs and MDIs to deliver financing in communities of color and set aside specific funding for minority-owned lending institutions and minority-owned businesses. I know from experience how important mentorship is for fledgling entrepreneurs, and I support facilitating opportunities for startups to learn from more seasoned business owners. Colorado’s Rural Jump-Start program has demonstrated the power of startups to spur entrepreneurship in rural communities, and I am in favor of the expansion of similar programs nationwide. And to mitigate some of the risk inherent in building a business, Congress can help by boosting the portability of health and retirement benefits. Finally, I intend to work with the Small Business Administration to streamline regulations for small businesses, which could help them keep a competitive edge in the face of increasing consolidation of large corporations. This includes reforming occupational licensing, which can increase business creation among groups that traditionally face barriers to entry such as military families, immigrants, and individuals with a criminal record.  

Promote Job Growth in the Clean Energy Economy: As a small business owner, I saw firsthand how creating jobs and protecting Colorado’s environment can go hand-in-hand. Our brewpub prioritized sustainability from the start, including by recycling cardboard, glass, and water before it was common to do so. And we prospered. Similarly, the clean economy offers an exciting opportunity to create millions of new jobs. Entrepreneurs can play a vital role in creating value rather than destroying it. That is why in my plan to address climate change, I propose establishing a Climate Corps Program, which will inspire more young people to pursue careers in renewable energy, carbon capture, regenerative agriculture, and green startups. I support investments in sustainable infrastructure, which will create jobs while greening our nation’s severely neglected transportation networks, as well as promoting clean vehicles on our roads. And for individuals working in sectors that will be negatively impacted by this transition—many of whom have the most marketable skills in our workforce—we need to ensure financial support, skills training, and community engagement are available to help ensure each and every person finds quality work in the new economy. While Cory Gardner unravels limits on pollution and fails to take meaningful action on climate change, I will focus on building a workforce built around conservation, regeneration, and renewable energy. 

Support the Marijuana Industry: Colorado has led the movement for marijuana legalization since 2012. From a social justice perspective, this change was significant because African American men are disproportionately imprisoned for nonviolent marijuana crimes. From an economic perspective, the legalization of marijuana created new opportunities for thousands of startups in our state, boosted tourism, and produced over a billion dollars in new sales and tax revenue to help fund education, mental health, and local government services. I believe Congress should deschedule marijuana nationwide, creating new pathways for entrepreneurship and medical research across the country. As Senator, I am also committed to leveling the playing field for entrepreneurs of color in the cannabis industry. As a small business owner, I know how challenging it can be to access capital. All aspiring entrepreneurs should be able to take advantage of the economic opportunity this burgeoning industry presents, should they choose to do so.

Invest in Technological Leadership: The United States has historically been the undisputed leader in technology and innovation. This primacy is now in question. While Congress dithers on key technological investments, other nations are racing ahead. As the founder of the National Cybersecurity Center, I know what it takes to prioritize innovation. I believe the United States can and will drive the development of artificial intelligence, 5G internet, quantum computing, blockchain, and other technologies, but only with a whole-of-government approach. A new national innovation strategy is necessary to boost research funding for agencies and require that every department outline a strategic plan for incorporating advanced technologies. Concurrently, we must prepare our workforce by investing in STEM education, particularly for women and underrepresented minorities.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email
Share on print