Veterans can get the help they need with four bills that Gov. Jared Polis signed Wednesday that are aimed directly at them.
The measures, some of which were introduced by local lawmakers, are designed to help them find employment, provide them with assistance to cope with any mental health issues resulting from their military service and provide homeless veterans of the food, clothing or other help when needed. he.
This latest measure, Senate Bill 32, creates a pilot grant program – the Mobile Veterans Support Unit Grant Program – that is specifically designed to help veterans who live in rural areas of the state.
Under it, the Colorado Department of Local Affairs would create a limited program, for now, to provide two-year grants to veteran-owned organizations working to distribute supplies to homeless veterans. , or help provide transportation for whatever they need, from getting to medical care to homeless shelters.
Introduced by Senator Kerry Donovan, a Democrat from Vail whose district includes Delta County, the grant fund is endowed with approximately $ 239,000 in state money, but could also accept gifts, grants or donations. donations from private sources.
“(The) signing of bills demonstrates the incredible progress we have made this year in helping veterans find good jobs, preventing veteran suicides, and providing a lifeline for rural and non-rural vets. “shelter going through tough times,” said Rep. David Ortiz, D-Littleton, who was the House sponsor of three of the bills. “We have a world-leading combat force made up of volunteers, and to keep it that way, we need to be proactive in ensuring that veterans can continue to thrive after their service.”
Ortiz is the first known wheelchair member of the Colorado legislature. The U.S. Army veteran lost his ability to walk after a helicopter he served in Afghanistan crashed in 2012.
House Bill 1065, introduced by Ortiz and Senate Speaker Leroy Garcia, a Pueblo Democrat and Navy veteran, allows private employers to adopt veteran-preference hiring policies similar to those already in place for government jobs.
Under it, employers could elevate veterans, or the spouse of a disabled veteran or service member killed in the line of duty over other job applicants as long as they are also qualified for the available position.
The measure provides legal protections against discrimination to employers who adopt such policies, but it also ensures that the new law does not have the effect of discriminating against other protected classes on the basis of race, sexual orientation. , ethnicity or religious beliefs, among others.
Another measure, SB129, creates another pilot program for veterans.
Also introduced by Ortiz and Garcia, the measure calls on the Colorado Department of Human Services to establish a special hotline for veteran suicide prevention.
This hotline would serve as a central point for veterans to call to get any behavioral health treatment they need.
The fourth measure, partly introduced by Senator Bob Rankin, R-Carbondale, changes the name of Lincoln Park and Liberty Park located on the Capitol grounds in Denver to Lincoln Veterans Memorial Park.