Mar 29, 2018

Recent articles

CCLP’s 2024 legislative wrap-up, part 2

CCLP's 2024 legislative wrap-up focused on expanding access to justice, removing administrative burden, supporting progressive tax and wage policies, preserving affordable communities, and reducing health care costs. Part 2/2.

CCLP’s 2024 legislative wrap-up, part 1

CCLP's 2024 legislative wrap-up focused on expanding access to justice, removing administrative burden, supporting progressive tax and wage policies, preserving affordable communities, and reducing health care costs.

CCLP testifies in support of Clean Slate updates

Bethany Pray, CCLP’s Chief Legal and Policy Officer, provided testimony in support of House Bill 24-1133, Criminal Record Sealing & Expungement Changes. CCLP is in support of HB24-1133, as it is one of our priority bills.

Behind the Scenes: The inside story of Senate Bill 10

by | Mar 29, 2018

Getting a copy of a signed lease or a receipt is considered a common, professional courtesy in the best interest of the landlord and the tenant. However, right now, landlords are not obligated to provide such documents by law.

Unfortunately, records of transactions can get lost when tenants pay with cash or money order — as is the case with many low-income renters. This creates a situation ripe for misunderstandings from both sides. Many Colorado renters have been vulnerable to eviction or late charges because they were not able to prove that they had already paid rent – creating greater instability for those who are struggling to make ends meet. Fortunately, legislation developed and advocated for by CCLP, approved by Colorado legislators, and signed by Gov. John Hickenlooper, will do much to prevent such situations from happening in the future.

Signed into law on Thursday, March 22 after winning bipartisan support during the 2018 session, Senate Bill 10 will require landlords to provide to tenants a copy of their lease, plus a receipt when rent is paid by cash or money order. Receipts will be provided automatically if rent is paid in-person, and upon request if rent is mailed or deposited into a drop box. This ensures that tenants have the pertinent information about the expectations of their tenancy and can document their rent payments.

If you think that a bill that enacts such a reasonable and common practice in the tenant-landlord relationship would be an “easy lift,” you’d be wrong. In 2017, a similar measure, House Bill 1312 passed through the House but went down on party lines in a Senate committee near the end of the legislative session even though a compromise had been reached that neutralized opposition to the bill.

In public policy as in life, two or more times is the charm. But passing SB 10 took more than good luck. It required hard work, determination, strategy and diplomacy from CCLP staff — notably, our own Jack Regenbogen — and our partners.

According to Jack, the concept behind what eventually became SB 10 sprang from Floyd and April Jones who run Colorado Affordable Legal Services and Colorado Eviction Defense Center. The Joneses informed CCLP staff that a tenant’s lack of access to the signed lease or rental receipts often are at the root of evictions — whereas the ability to produce a rent receipt could help tenants remain in their homes.

During the 2017 session, HB 1312 was among a package of housing bills introduced in the legislature. We built a broad-based coalition, including 9to5 Colorado, Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, the Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition. The Colorado Apartment Association, which represents landlords and  property management companies, originally opposed the bill.

In order to quell opposition, Jack approached the association with a compromise. After extensive negotiations, the association agreed to pull their opposition if HB 1312 included a provision that would grant receipts upon request, rather than automatically, if payment was not provided in person. Despite the compromise, the bill still failed after it was referred to the Senate Committee on State, Veterans & Military Affairs (commonly known as “the Kill Committee”) during the last two weeks of the session.

“We weren’t able to effectively lobby for the bill because there were rotating members on the committee at that point in the session,” Jack recalled.

Undeterred, Jack resumed communications with the Apartment Association, notifying them that a similar bill was in the works for 2018. Though the Apartment Association wouldn’t recommit to a neutral stance, Jack set out to find a sponsor to introduce the bill in the Senate, in hopes that it would gain bipartisan traction. Fortunately, Sen. Beth Martinez Humenik, R-Thornton, agreed to sponsor the bill.

“That was strategically very important,” Jack said, noting that in 2017, Sen. Kevin Priola, R-Henderson, sponsored our successful Notice to Quit Bill, which extended the notification period to terminate a tenant’s occupancy or raise rent from seven days to 21. When SB 10 was introduced, it was assigned to the Senate Committee on Local Government,  which Martinez Humenik chairs, meaning that she could provide an important “swing vote” if  her party colleagues were not on board with the legislation.

Though they had agreed to “go neutral” on SB 1312 the previous year, the Apartment Association asked to add a provision that tenants needed to request a lease or receipt in writing in order to receive the documents. They also wanted to give the landlords discretion as to whether they’d issue a paper or electronic copy of the documents.

“We didn’t want to make those changes,” Jack said. “We had already compromised a lot last year. We knew that we had to stand firm.”

The Renters Roundtable coalition also agreed not to acquiesce on all but one of the Apartment Association’s proposed amendments. “We believed that we had the support we needed, and didn’t feel comfortable watering down the bill,” Jack said.

After meeting with the Senate co-sponsors and the partners backing SB 10, they decided to move forward without the amendments. In response to this unified coalition of advocates, the Apartment Association eventually changed course and supported the bill — even testifying in favor of it. The bill passed out of the Senate Committee on Local Government and headed to the Senate floor, where it passed by a vote of 24-10. It easily cleared the House under the sponsorship of Rep. Tony Exum, D-Colorado Springs, and moved to the Governor’s desk.

The success of SB 10 didn’t come easily or occur in a vacuum. We must credit our amazing partners for their support and willingness to compromise (but also for remaining steadfast when necessary), and the bill’s sponsors, Sen. Martinez Humenik and Williams and Rep. Exum for guiding its path through the legislative process.

Once it goes into effect in August, the bill will make a difference in the lives of countless Coloradans who otherwise might be susceptible to hardship or even homelessness. While we feel good about our work on SB 10, we are also humbled in knowing that it is a small, but important step in forging pathways from poverty.

– By Bob Mook

Recent articles

CCLP’s 2024 legislative wrap-up, part 2

CCLP's 2024 legislative wrap-up focused on expanding access to justice, removing administrative burden, supporting progressive tax and wage policies, preserving affordable communities, and reducing health care costs. Part 2/2.

CCLP’s 2024 legislative wrap-up, part 1

CCLP's 2024 legislative wrap-up focused on expanding access to justice, removing administrative burden, supporting progressive tax and wage policies, preserving affordable communities, and reducing health care costs.

CCLP testifies in support of Clean Slate updates

Bethany Pray, CCLP’s Chief Legal and Policy Officer, provided testimony in support of House Bill 24-1133, Criminal Record Sealing & Expungement Changes. CCLP is in support of HB24-1133, as it is one of our priority bills.

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.