May 22, 2020

Recent articles

ACTION ALERT: Ask legislators to act on a plan

With the COVID-19 crisis straining our health care system, putting Coloradans out of work and creating a climate of anxiety and uncertainty with long-term ramifications statewide, you might think the situation in Colorado couldn’t get any worse. Unfortunately, that might not be the case.

Faced with a $3.3 billion dollar shortfall, Colorado legislators could execute budget cuts that would deeply wound Colorado communities and families by reeling in funding for education, health care and other critical services when they are most needed most. Such cuts would have a profound negative effect on Coloradans who were already struggling to make ends meet before the pandemic started – causing long-lasting harm in every corner of our state.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Earlier this week, we stood with a diverse coalition of nearly 135 organizations in sending a joint letter urging Colorado legislators and Gov. Jared Polis to initiate a plan to mitigate some of the more painful cuts facing the state. You can read more details in this news release, but in short, the coalition is asking lawmakers to declare a health care emergency, optimize the use of federal relief funds and pass an emergency measure that will reduce income taxes for most Coloradans, while temporarily raising taxes for Coloradans who earn more than $250,000 a year.

The proposal could raise as much as $750 million and soften the impact for Coloradans who are hurting the most in the ongoing crisis, including people with disabilities, communities of color and rural Coloradans working in low-wage jobs (or not working at all because of COVID-19). While this proposal presents the clearest path to help Colorado recover under the state’s constitution, it will take courage and fortitude from lawmakers from both sides of the political divide to make it a reality.

That’s why we are asking you – our community partners – to join forces with us in the taking these action steps:

* Contact your local legislators in the House and the Senate by phone or email and let them know that you support the #RecoverCO three pronged plan, and why.

* Forward this email to your friends, family, community groups and associates and make them aware of this constitutionally valid approach to raise more revenue for Colorado and avoid devastating cuts in the state budget.

* Post about your support to the #RecoverCO approach on social media by accessing the #RecoverCO social media toolkit. Also, visit our #RecoverCO landing page for updates, resources and media about the campaign. Feel free to raise the issue in public forums with elected officials and write letters to the editor in your local paper.

* Finally, contact Allison Neswood, Esq., at aneswood@copolicy.org to join the coalition to help Colorado recover.

We realize this is an uphill battle, so we are asking you to amplify your voice and urge lawmakers to bring this proposal to the table. With the Colorado General Assembly reconvening on May 26, please take these actions as soon as possible.

Recent articles

HEALTH:
HEALTH FIRST COLORADO (MEDICAID)

To maintain health and well-being, people of all ages need access to quality health care that improves outcomes and reduces costs for the community. Health First Colorado, the state's Medicaid program, is public health insurance for low-income Coloradans who qualify. The program is funded jointly by a federal-state partnership and is administered by the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy & Financing.

Benefits of the program include behavioral health, dental services, emergency care, family planning services, hospitalization, laboratory services, maternity care, newborn care, outpatient care, prescription drugs, preventive and wellness services, primary care and rehabilitative services.

In tandem with the Affordable Care Act, Colorado expanded Medicaid eligibility in 2013 - providing hundreds of thousands of adults with incomes less than 133% FPL with health insurance for the first time increasing the health and economic well-being of these Coloradans. Most of the money for newly eligible Medicaid clients has been covered by the federal government, which will gradually decrease its contribution to 90% by 2020.

Other populations eligible for Medicaid include children, who qualify with income up to 142% FPL, pregnant women with household income under 195% FPL, and adults with dependent children with household income under 68% FPL.

Some analyses indicate that Colorado's investment in Medicaid will pay off in the long run by reducing spending on programs for the uninsured.

FOOD SECURITY:
SUPPLEMENTAL NUTRITION ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (SNAP)

Hunger, though often invisible, affects everyone. It impacts people's physical, mental and emotional health and can be a culprit of obesity, depression, acute and chronic illnesses and other preventable medical conditions. Hunger also hinders education and productivity, not only stunting a child's overall well-being and academic achievement, but consuming an adult's ability to be a focused, industrious member of society. Even those who have never worried about having enough food experience the ripple effects of hunger, which seeps into our communities and erodes our state's economy.

Community resources like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food Stamps, exist to ensure that families and individuals can purchase groceries, with the average benefit being about $1.40 per meal, per person.

Funding for SNAP comes from the USDA, but the administrative costs are split between local, state, and federal governments. Yet, the lack of investment in a strong, effective SNAP program impedes Colorado's progress in becoming the healthiest state in the nation and providing a better, brighter future for all. Indeed, Colorado ranks 44th in the nation for access to SNAP and lost out on more than $261 million in grocery sales due to a large access gap in SNAP enrollment.

See the Food Assistance (SNAP) Benefit Calculator to get an estimate of your eligibility for food benefits.

FOOD SECURITY:
SPECIAL SUPPLEMENTAL NUTRITION PROGRAM FOR WOMEN, INFANTS AND CHILDREN (WIC)

Every child deserves the nutritional resources needed to get a healthy start on life both inside and outside the mother's womb. In particular, good nutrition and health care is critical for establishing a strong foundation that could affect a child's future physical and mental health, academic achievement and economic productivity. Likewise, the inability to access good nutrition and health care endangers the very integrity of that foundation.

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) provides federal grants to states for supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition information for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding postpartum women and to infants and children up to age five who are found to be at nutritional risk.

Research has shown that WIC has played an important role in improving birth outcomes and containing health care costs, resulting in longer pregnancies, fewer infant deaths, a greater likelihood of receiving prenatal care, improved infant-feeding practices, and immunization rates

Financial Security:
Colorado Works

In building a foundation for self-sufficiency, some Colorado families need some extra tools to ensure they can weather challenging financial circumstances and obtain basic resources to help them and their communities reach their potential.

Colorado Works is Colorado's Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program and provides public assistance to families in need. The Colorado Works program is designed to assist participants in becoming self-sufficient by strengthening the economic and social stability of families. The program provides monthly cash assistance and support services to eligible Colorado families.

The program is primarily funded by a federal block grant to the state. Counties also contribute about 20% of the cost.

EARLY LEARNING:
COLORADO CHILD CARE ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (CCCAP)

Child care is a must for working families. Along with ensuring that parents can work or obtain job skills training to improve their families' economic security, studies show that quality child care improves children's academic performance, career development and health outcomes.

Yet despite these proven benefits, low-income families often struggle with the cost of child care. Colorado ranks among the top 10 most expensive states in the country for center-based child care. For families with an infant, full-time enrollment at a child care center cost an average of $15,140 a year-or about three-quarters of the total income of a family of three living at the Federal Poverty Level (FPL).

The Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP) provides child care assistance to parents who are working, searching for employment or participating in training, and parents who are enrolled in the Colorado Works Program and need child care services to support their efforts toward self-sufficiency. Most of the money for CCCAP comes from the federal Child Care and Development Fund. Each county can set their own income eligibility limit as long as it is at or above 165% of the federal poverty level and does not exceed 85% of area median income.

Unfortunately, while the need is growing, only an estimated one-quarter of all eligible children in the state are served by CCCAP. Low reimbursement rates have also resulted in fewer providers willing to accept CCCAP subsidies.