By Mary Jo Coulehan
Special to The SUN
Aesthetically, Pagosa Springs is looking fairly barren right now. However, social distancing and business closures will not last forever. Pagosans are looking forward to vibrancy, warmer weather and color.
The annual Pagosa Chamber Hanging Basket program has begun offering two sizes of hanging baskets again this year. The beautiful 12-inch baskets will be provided by Pagosa Feed and Nursery. These baskets are specially planted for this program with a mix of flowers and greens. They are packed densely and grow into stunning colorful baskets. The 16-inch baskets are also specially grown by Kathy and consist primarily of the beautiful and varietal calibrachoa flowers.
These baskets are stunningly large and heavy, so when ordering, make sure that you have a location where you can easily water the baskets and have appropriate hardware to handle the weight of the basket. The 12-inch baskets are $35 and the 16-inch baskets are $110.
The 12-inch baskets are scheduled to be available for pickup or delivery on May 22, just before the Memorial Day weekend. The 16-inch baskets most likely will be delivered the first week of June. There are a limited amount of baskets in each size, so please order early.
To order the baskets, visit the Chamber website, www.pagosachamber.com, and navigate to the Activities and Events tab and the Pagosa Pride Hanging Basket Program will appear on the drop-down menu. From this page, you can either order and pay directly online or you can download the form and bring it to the Chamber with cash or check. We are also offering payment plans this year for larger quantities ordered. Please contact the Chamber if you would like to set up a payment plan.
We are looking forward to adding some color to our community, welcoming tourists when the social distancing bans are lifted and people will be clamoring to get out and about. Baskets are open to the public and you do not have to be a Chamber member to order them. Questions about the program can also be directed to the Chamber staff at 264-2360.
Chamber business COVID-19 Economic Survey
Beginning Monday, April 13, the Chamber released an Economic COVID-19 Survey for our business community.
It is important that we have an accurate assessment of the status of our community. From the recent analysis from the Department of Labor and Employment, over 50 percent of the unemployment filings have been related to the restaurant and lodging industry. However, on a county level, we do not have that information yet.
This information will be used to help us take a snapshot of our economic status, to use these statistics with our local and state government entities, and to assess what we will need to do in the near future.
The business survey is open to all businesses, not just Chamber members. Chamber members should have received an email with the link to the survey on Monday. However, businesses can also access the link on the homepage of the Chamber website at www.pagosachamber.com. The survey is open until April 30. Please take five minutes to voice your status.
Relief for independent contractors and the self-employed
The federal CARES Act now allows for gig workers and self-employed/independent contractors to apply for several relief programs. Both the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Colorado Unemployment are available to this category of workers.
In the past, self-employed and/or gig workers were not eligible to claim unemployment due primarily to the fact that they did not pay into the unemployment pool. Therefore, they were not able to collect unemployment insurance. However, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, these rules have changed. These self-employed or contract workers can apply for financial assistance.
However, this pool of workers must decide which program to apply to. You are not eligible for funds from both pools of money. Remember, the PPP program must be used for wages and also for rent, mortgage and utilities. This program is useful if you want to keep perhaps you and even another person on the payroll. That person may actually also be a family member who takes care of the books, books appointments and the like. Your home may be your office, so some of those items may also be covered. You will need to collect documentation such as 1099s, W2s, (from all jobs), 2018 or 2019 taxes, invoices, payment receipts and the like in order to file for either program. You will need to attest when your losses started to occur. It is also important to remember that you cannot apply for future losses.
All unemployment applicants will need to file weekly with the state at http://www.connectingcolorado.com. Although the state knows that jobs will be limited and unavailable, applicants can claim business closure due to COVID-19 until that business is able to reopen and the employer is able to put you back on payroll or the governor’s order has been rescinded and the self-employed or contract worker can return to their trade.
The state has a wage estimate calculator that you can use to help you for unemployment: http://www.coworkforce.com/uibEstimator/. If you file for unemployment, you will also be eligible for the $600/week federal addition to your unemployment benefit. This amount is retroactive until March 29 and could continue for 13 weeks. You do not have to do anything to claim these additional funds. It will automatically be added to your unemployment filing. It is also important to remember that unemployment benefits are taxable.
Visit the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment’s website at https://www.colorado.gov/cdle for information on how to file for unemployment, the benefit calculator and much more. If filing for unemployment, note that the state has now broken out the filing by last name alphabetizing: A-M is Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday and after noon on Saturdays, and N-Z is Monday, Wednesday, Friday and before noon on Saturdays. If you do not file on the days related to your last name, the system will not take your application and you will be delayed. The department has also added a new button where you can request and receive a PIN number online. While many have experienced frustration over a delay in getting PIN numbers and the system “crashing” when filing, remember that an incident such as this pandemic has never been experienced before.
The state of Colorado has processed over 200,000 initial claims in just three weeks. It is working with a system that never anticipated this demand. With many of the PINs now having been issued, payments will soon be processed. If you feel your estimate is incorrect, you may file an appeal and there is also a location on the website to request another PIN.
Financial breathing room is on the way for employees, gig and self-employed workers. If you do not have a computer and need assistance, contact the Training Advantage at 264-5627 and they can assistance you with your filing. PPP applicants should contact their bank to assist with the filing of this documentation as all banks are processing PPP applications. The Small Business Development Center can also assist you with selecting the correct program for your needs.