Mar 11, 2024

Lydia McCoy serves as the CEO of CCLP. She currently serves on the Board of the Denver Metro Chamber Leadership Foundation and as Board Chair of One Colorado, and has served as Adjunct Faculty for the University of Denver’s Nonprofit Leadership Graduate Program.

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 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, CEO of Colorado Center on Law and Policy, a nonpartisan anti-poverty organization, 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. 

This is particularly true in administrative hearings. Many Coloradans who rely on Medicaid are currently being dropped from the program due to procedural errors, as people attempt to renew their coverage after the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency. The only way for these families to stay covered after a termination is to file an appeal with the Office of Administrative Courts. It is very challenging for these families to sift through notices and medical documents, to file exhibits and to prepare to testify in front of a judge, all on their own. For families on Medicaid, an attorney can mean the difference for access to life-saving doctors, therapists, and medicine.

The same is true for SNAP benefits—also known as food stamps. Currently 95% of people who appeal a SNAP decision in Colorado do so without a lawyer. The result is that these Coloradans are five times less likely to get a favorable ruling than the national average. What is at stake in these cases is someone’s ability to feed themselves and their families.

We know through data that having access to legal representation changes outcomes. It is well documented by empirical studies that people are better able to navigate the legal system when they have an attorney. You just heard that civil legal aid also makes good economic sense—for every dollar invested in Colorado Legal Services, the state of Colorado receives more than six dollars of immediate and long-term financial benefits.

In Colorado, despite having the fourth largest number of people living in poverty among western states, we are near the bottom for how much funding we provide for legal aid. We also know that Colorado has among the lowest court filing fees. By raising these fees, using the same mechanism that most other western states use to fund civil legal aid, this bill would provide more Coloradans access to critical legal services, while improving the judicial process for everyone. I ask for your support.

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 5/4/2024: HB24-1286 passed the House and Senate and is onto signatures.

 

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.

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.