Vice President Kamala Harris stops by Denver to tout $1.9 trillion relief package

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DENVER — Vice President Kamala Harris visited Colorado Tuesday to talk about the $1.9 trillion COVID relief package recently passed by Congress.

The visit was part of a nationwide “Help is Here” tour by the Biden Administration to highlight ways the stimulus packages will help the country and individual states recover. On Monday, Harris and the second gentleman visited Las Vegas.

Tuesday, the vice president flew to Denver, where she was supposed to drive to Fort Lupton to visit a vaccine clinic at Salud Family Health Centers but had to switch it to a virtual visit due to timing.

Afterward, Harris headed to Maria Empanada on Broadway to host a listening session with small businesses about the struggles they have faced over the past year.

“I still have two (restaurants) that are completely closed. It doesn’t make sense to re-open,” said Lorena Cantarovici, the founder of Maria Empanada. “It’s absolutely part of the message that I gave is the necessity, the immediate necessity that I need. I mean we don’t know if we can make it for next month.”

Part of the American Rescue Plan includes $15 billion for some of the hardest hit small businesses and $28 billion for restaurants that have been struggling to stay open.

“We want to make sure that you can stay open, so these were things of the American Rescue Plan that were purposely designed to bring relief so that you can get back up and running,” Harris said during the listening session.

Along with allowing businesses to use the money to retain employees, Harris said money can help with putting more safety precautions in place like plexi-glass in order to accommodate more customers.

Cantarovici was able to receive two rounds of PPP loans to help keep her business afloat and is hoping for more help from the latest stimulus package.

While the money has helped keep the doors to some of her restaurants open, Cantarovici says the government funding is only a short-term solution.

“In order to make the system work, we need a model where we have 100% capacity,” she said.

Cantarovici was joined by the CEO of the Springs Rescue Mission and the owner of Colorado Artisan during the meeting with the Biden team.

Each took turns sharing their experience about their businesses and how much they’ve lost over the past year.

The tour is much different from 2009, when the Obama Administration passed and signed a significant relief package into law but did not hit the road to talk to communities about how it would help.

President Biden himself has acknowledged that more should have been done to reach out to the public in 2009 to talk about the importance of that stimulus package.

While the Harris team was in Denver to reach out to the community, most local media outlets were not allowed to join the tour and were not given access to the vice president or her team to ask questions about how the stimulus package would specifically impact Colorado.

Instead, outlets were provided a pool feed of the coverage from a national network.

After visiting with Maria Empanada, Harris left town for the next stop on her nationwide tour.