Nov 19, 2019

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.

COMPS order would protect some of Colorado’s hardest workers

As the cost of basic needs in Colorado continues to rise, the Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) has proposed updating the state’s Wage Order to add more protections for workers — ensuring more Coloradans are compensated fairly. The Colorado Overtime and Minimum Pay Standards Order (or COMPS) provides protections for fair compensation, while specifying certain workplace rights like meal and rest breaks.

In 2016, when Coloradans approved a ballot measure raising the minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2020, voters were mostly unaware that the Minimum Wage Order only covered four industries: retail and service; commercial support service; food and beverage; and health and medical. This left out a significant portion of hard-working Coloradans in the manufacturing and construction and other sectors.

Today, federal law only protects the right to be paid overtime for overtime hours works for salaried employees making less than the threshold of $23,660 per year. The U.S. Department of Labor will raise this federal threshold to $35,568 on Jan. 1, 2020; leaving thousands of Coloradans without the right to overtime compensation where the median household income is $71,953. The federal threshold level protected 60 percent of full-time salaried employees in 1975. In 2016, however, that threshold only protected 7 percent of these workers — allowing for situations where qualified and trained managers, administrators and professionals could be paid less than subordinates earning only minimum wage. It is time to update Colorado’s labor policies to reflect the changing 21st century economy and to prepare for building a better future for Colorado’s workforce.

CCLP has joined its partners at Siegal Public Affairs, Towards Justice and the Bell Policy Center, among others, in advocating for CDLE to update the rules to be more inclusive and make the necessary changes to promote fair compensation and allow all Coloradans to benefit more from Colorado’s booming economy.

CDLE released the first proposal for COMPS on Nov. 18, 2019 with a couple of highlights to note. First, all employees from all industries will now be covered by the protections set by the Minimum Wage order unless they are specifically carved out. The proposal ensures agricultural workers receive rest breaks but does not ensure that they receive meal breaks or overtime pay.

The second important item to note is that the proposal raises the minimum salary threshold for overtime exempt workers to $42,500 in 2020, which would gradually increase to $54,500 in 2025 and $57,500 in 2026, before adjusting annually for inflation. Under this rule 80,000 workers would receive overtime pay in 2020, while 206,000 workers would benefit under the 2026 threshold.

While these improvements are moving in the right direction, we encourage the CDLE to go even further in protecting Coloradans. Agricultural workers are one of the most marginalized groups of workers, and we expect the state to step up efforts to improve the financial security for those who work in this important sector. Similarly, the proposed minimum salary threshold is a deserved increase from the current threshold, but thousands of workers will have to wait six years to be eligible to begin receiving overtime pay that they would have earned today. Colorado workers deserve a threshold that is more in line with the state’s rising cost of living and we encourage CDLE to raise the threshold more quickly. This is the final leg of a long process and we urge CDLE to continue moving in the right direction.

Colorado’s state government can and should expand the existing protections to include thousands of workers and allow more Coloradans to prosper. As Colorado’s economy continues to grow, we need to let CDLE know that they must do their part to protect more Coloradans.

The department has opened a comment period for the COMPS proposal and will be accepted until Dec. 31. Comments will be accepted until then and can be submitted by mail to CDLE, fax to 303-318-8400 or email to michael.primo@state.co.us. Please let CDLE know how vital this opportunity is to improve the lives of thousands of valuable workers.

CDLE will also host a public hearing for the rule proposal on Monday, Dec. 16 at 3 p.m. at the Colorado Division of Labor Standards and Statistics office located at 633 17th Street on the 12th floor where you can join CCLP and the rest of the coalition in showing our support for Colorado’s workforce.

-By Miguel Mendez

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.