Mar 11, 2024

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CCLP testifies in support of TANF grant rule change

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CCLP’s legislative watch for April 5, 2024

For the 2024 legislative session, CCLP is keeping its eye on bills focused on expanding access to justice, removing administrative burden, preserving affordable communities, advocating for progressive tax and wage policies, and reducing health care costs.

CCLP testifies in support of an Equal Justice Fund

by | Mar 11, 2024

On Tuesday, March 5, 2024, Lydia McCoy, CCLP’s Executive Director, provided testimony to the House Judiciary Committee for House Bill 24-1286, Equal Justice Fund Authority. CCLP is in support for HB24-1286. 

 

Members of the House Judiciary Committee,  

Thank you Chair and members of the committee. I’m Lydia McCoy, Executive Director of the Colorado Center on Law and Policy, and I’m here today in support of House Bill 24-1286.

At CCLP, we believe laws and policies are only as good as their implementation and enforcement. In order for the rules of government to work as intended, all people need access to the support and representation of legal professionals to protect them from harm and help them navigate complex systems. 

One example of this is a severe lack of representation at benefit hearings for SNAP, also known as food stamps, when low-income Coloradans appeal a decision on their SNAP benefits. 95% of people making appeals on SNAP decisions in Colorado do so without a lawyer by their side. The result is only eight percent of hearings being decided in their favor, in comparison with 41% being decided favorably on the national level. This is not due to Colorado’s administrative process being better than other states’: according to CCLP research, two-thirds of all cases can be attributed to county agency errors, and only three states have a higher proportion of agency errors than Colorado. To summarize this data: of that 66% of likely favorable hearing outcomes for low-income Coloradans needing help buying food, only eight percent are being decided favorably. And 95% of them do not have a lawyer representing them. These decisions have a direct impact on their ability to feed themselves and their families. This is unacceptable. 

As you have heard from previous panels, our state is woefully behind in investing in this crucial aspect of scaffolding good policy.  For this reason, I urge you to vote in support of this bill.

Thank you for your time and I welcome any questions you may have.  

Sincerely,

Lydia McCoy
Executive Director
Colorado Center on Law and Policy

 

Update 3/11/2024: HB24-1286 passed House Judiciary Committee as amended on March 5th and will be heard in the House Finance Committee. 

 

Recent articles

CCLP testifies in support of TANF grant rule change

CCLP's Emeritus Advisor, Chaer Robert, provided written testimony in support of the CDHS rule on the COLA increase for TANF recipients. If the rule is adopted, the cost of living increase would go into effect on July 1, 2024.

CCLP’s legislative watch for April 5, 2024

For the 2024 legislative session, CCLP is keeping its eye on bills focused on expanding access to justice, removing administrative burden, preserving affordable communities, advocating for progressive tax and wage policies, and reducing health care costs.

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.