Apr 12, 2022

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An intro to digital equity and employment

by | Apr 12, 2022

Within the wide range of work tackled by Colorado Center on Law and Policy, one significant area of activity involves coordinating the Skills2Compete Colorado coalition (S2C), the Colorado affiliate of the National Skills Coalition (NSC).

The primary responsibility of both the local and national coalitions is to determine diverse strategies, policies, and programs of benefit to those seeking to obtain or retain employment. This includes encouraging upskilling for all, improving portals and platforms used to transfer information online, supporting individuals to pursue career pathways that offer living wages and opportunities for advancement, and expanding the ability of all Coloradans to benefit from advancing technology.

Early in 2020, the membership of Skills2Compete Colorado identified literacy as the priority of our work for the year, given its impact on an individual’s ability to obtain or retain employment in a desired career. Although we expected to develop legislative recommendations for the legislative session in 2021, the emergence of the pandemic in March forced us to reconsider the most pressing priorities for Coloradans, given the new realities of employment and life in the time of COVID. Top among these was the growing need to access work, skill training, public benefit programs, and other pandemic-related supports through online portals and platforms.

Earlier discoveries

The refocused work proceeded shortly after the COVID pandemic began. As nearly all areas of life increased their dependence on online services, the challenges facing all Coloradans, especially those with limited access to (or understanding of) digital technology, increased exponentially.

This included more obvious changes, such as having students of all ages attending classes virtually, attending telehealth meetings in place of regular medical appointments, or performing many work functions remotely. But it also shifted large areas of daily life, such as ordering groceries or any takeout meals, purchasing other necessary items, or finding new ways to communicate with family and friends.

Hidden costs of this international move towards digital life emerged. The pandemic raised the need for a massive investment in broadband and affordable connectivity for all households nationwide, increasing support for the idea that digital access should be viewed as a key component of modern infrastructure, similar to having clean water and adequate electricity and heat. These costs also indicated a need to expand our understanding of how digital equity, inclusion, literacy, upskilling — and even access to affordable connectivity and equipment — have become integral parts of our lives and our abilities to conduct personal and professional business of any kind.

Current work and themes

The current work of CCLP and Skills2Compete Colorado involves partnerships of different types — with the Office of the Future of Work in the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, the full Skills2Compete Coalition, the Economic Analysis and Research Network of the Economic Policy Institute, as well as local partners Spring Institute of Multicultural Learning and the Center for Work Education and Employment (CWEE).

Each of our projects support these primary goals:

  1. To intentionally solicit and represent the voices of diverse communities regarding their needs and concerns related to digital access and the role it has in their daily personal and professional lives.
  2. To describe and define the human challenges that exist for Coloradans in transitioning to a digital lifestyle beyond the basic needs of having affordable and accessible connectivity, equipment, and general skills.
  3. To expand public understanding of how digital access and literacy impacts future opportunities available to all Coloradans.
  4. To magnify the responsibility that all employers, government agencies, community entities and individuals share in supporting the increased accessibility and digital literacy of all Coloradans by employing portals, platforms and websites that are “user-friendly” and designed for the user to obtain the desired resource information or service as easily as possible.
  5. To draft and submit recommendations and promising practices that are incorporated into the state digital plan (required through the passage of the Digital Equity Act), potential legislation, and policy initiatives focused on expanding digital equity and inclusion across the state.

How does digital equity impact CCLP’s work?

As CCLP’s and S2C’s work has progressed over the past 2-plus years, we have engaged in frequent discussions on issues of racial and economic equity for Coloradans. Similarly, the issue of digital equity and inclusion has emerged as a relevant sub-topic in each of our focus areas (Food, Housing, Income, and Health), and in our evaluations of the platforms and portals that are used for Coloradans to apply for and obtain diverse resources and benefits.

The importance of creating and using portals that are easy to use and very navigable to many individuals has only increased as the reliance on digital tools has skyrocketed. As staff perform interviews and listening sessions with diverse communities, we anticipate that new insights and proposed solutions toward digital equity will become an integral part of many legislative priorities in the future.

Recent articles


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.


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.


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.


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.