Colorado’s Attorney General, Office of Economic Development and International Trade partner with legal community to create a volunteer network for small businesses facing COVID-19 crisis challenges
Countless Colorado small businesses, the backbone of the state’s economy, face unprecedented operational challenges due to the economic impact of the COVID-19 emergency. The wide-ranging impact of the pandemic on local businesses poses a broad range of legal questions that further strains their limited resources. That is why the State of Colorado has partnered with the state’s legal community to create a volunteer program designed to connect attorneys with Colorado businesses in need to help them make informed decisions and get back on their feet.
From financial aid compliance to leasing arrangements and business liability, small businesses across our state face complex challenges, and most small businesses need legal resources and expertise to make informed decisions.
“Legal guidance is critical for all businesses during a time of changes and crisis. By working together with volunteers throughout the state, we can help Colorado’s small businesses, particularly women and minority-owned businesses, confront the challenges they are facing at this time” said Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser, whose office played a leadership role in convening partners for the effort. “I am thrilled to see volunteers from Colorado’s legal community step up to help our business community address their legal needs that stem from the national pandemic.”
An informal, public/private task force is organizing this widespread effort, which includes volunteers from law firms and in-house legal staff around the state who have agreed to assist businesses through individual representations and virtual webinars. The task force will work with Colorado’s Office of Economic Development and International Trade’s (OEDIT) 15 small business development centers (SBDC) around the state. The task force is using recent survey data gathered by the SBDCs to design need-based webinars and match volunteer lawyers to small businesses. OEDIT provides resources for Colorado’s small business, women-, and minority-owned businesses to volunteer lawyers with practices capable of assisting them.
“Colorado’s small businesses are the economic engine of our state and the pandemic has placed enormous strain on their operations,” said OEDIT Executive Director Betsy Markey “Small business economic stability and growth is a major priority for Governor Polis and OEDIT, and I am grateful for public-spirited attorneys volunteering around Colorado to help our small businesses through the crisis. Without this collaborative effort, our ability to provide meaningful legal guidance to our small business community would not have been possible.”
The Colorado Lawyers Committee, a nonpartisan consortium of 80 Colorado law firms dedicated to creating and increasing opportunities for children, the poor and other disadvantaged communities through pro bono legal advocacy, negotiation, and litigation, is matching volunteer attorneys with small businesses in need of assistance.
“We are thrilled to tap the amazing skills of Colorado’s attorneys in this time of need,” said Connie Talmage, the Committee’s executive director. “The impact of the economic crisis on minority- and women-owned businesses is especially severe and this is a much-needed program. I especially want to thank the law firms of WilmerHale and Davis Graham & Stubbs for their hard work in getting this off the ground.”
According to the Office of State Planning and Budgeting, Colorado’s tourism industry, which supports many of the state’s small businesses, is expected to rebound more slowly than other sectors. By assisting small businesses, the task force hopes to indirectly support the more than 400,000 Coloradans who have filed for unemployment due to the pandemic.
Businesses interested in applying for assistance, or volunteers willing to help, can go to www.coloradocovidrelief.org.