Jul 28, 2020

Charles serves as CCLP's Income and Housing Policy Director using data and research to support our efforts to stand with diverse communities across Colorado in the fight against poverty. Staff page ›

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.

Congress must extend unemployment insurance benefits

by | Jul 28, 2020

This is the last week the nearly 240,000 Coloradans who are on or currently applying for unemployment insurance will receive an expanded $600-a-week benefit. Officially known as Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (PUC), this benefit was designed to ensure the unemployment insurance programs in every state replaced 100 percent of workers’ wages.

Unlike regular unemployment benefits, PUC was paid for by the federal government, not the states’ unemployment trust funds. Given Colorado’s replacement rate of approximately 48 percent, the bottom 70 percent of wage earners in the state who applied for unemployment insurance likely received benefits that exceeded what they earned in their previous job, providing Colorado workers with much needed additional income to support themselves and their families during this public health emergency, as well as spend in our state’s economy at a time of and extraordinary economic decline.

While the past months have seen a record number of jobs lost and gained, our state is still experiencing an unprecedented economic situation. It is too early to tell how quickly the economy will recover, what that recovery will look like, or if things will get worse before they get better as new cases of COVID-19 continue to rise. Colorado lost more than 342,000 non-farm jobs during March and April before adding 71,000 non-farm jobs in May and 55,000 non-farm jobs in June, leaving the state with a net loss of about 216,300 jobs.

While initial unemployment claims are down from their peak of 104,572 for the week ending in April 11, more Coloradans filed initial claims during the week ending in July 11 than they did during the peak of the Great Recession. Troublingly, the week of July 11 also saw an increase of approximately 2,500 initial claims compared to the previous week. This sharp increase in unemployment has affected a majority of households in the state. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that during the week of July 2 to July 7, 52.2 percent of Coloradans over the age of 18 lived in a household where someone had experienced a loss of employment income since March 13, 2020.

The problem is that there is not enough job available for every unemployed worker in the state to fill. Despite claims that the generous unemployment insurance benefits provided through PUC would encourage workers to remain on unemployment insurance instead of looking for employment, the number of Coloradans employed or unemployed but looking for work actually increased by over 114.5 thousand between April and June. Worryingly, Colorado’s unemployment rate increased between May and June from 10.2 percent to 10.5 percent, signaling that a growing number of Coloradans who were looking for work were unable to find employment during the previous month. And it’s important to remember that even a 10.2 percent unemployment rate is the highest Colorado has seen in at least 44 years, if not since the Great Depression.

PUC discouraged laid off or furloughed workers from cutting back on spending, limiting the economic contraction that came with shutting down our state’s economy. For example, during the week ending in June 27, 2020, the expanded unemployment insurance benefits added an additional $131.4 million into the pockets of Coloradans receiving unemployment insurance that could then be spent in the state’s economy. Research from past recession suggests that each dollar spent through unemployment insurance benefits generates as much as $2 of indirect spending in the economy, supporting businesses and jobs that otherwise would have been lost. According to estimates by the Economic Policy Institute, failing to extend PUC for another year (through July 2021) could lead to a loss of 66,898 Colorado jobs over the next year — hampering recovery efforts in the state.

Learn more about the PUC and why it’s important in this CCLP issue brief.

Ask Sen. Cory Gardner and President Donald Trump not to eliminate this lifeline for unemployed Coloradans, their families and Colorado’s economy!:

  • Call the White House: 202-456-1111
  • Call Sen. Gardner: 202-224-3121

– By Charlie Brennan

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.


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.