Jan 9, 2017

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.

Daring to imagine a poverty-free Colorado

by | Jan 9, 2017

Imagine if every Coloradan, regardless of race, ethnicity or where they live, had the resources to afford housing, food, clothing, health care and other essentials — while building financial security for the future.

Imagine if quality, affordable health care were available throughout the state, so all Coloradans could receive the care they need and didn’t have to skimp on medications or rely on emergency rooms for basic care.

Imagine if all Coloradans could access the skills training and opportunities they needed to build happy and productive lives.

That is the Colorado we at the Colorado Center on Law and Policy aspire to create day-after-day, month-after-month and year-after-year. We have no illusions that we are anywhere near realizing those dreams. Yet, the vision of a prosperous and inclusive economy that works for everyone serves as our “north star” as we prepare for the 2017 legislative session and beyond.

Since CCLP was established nearly 20 years ago, Colorado has taken some bold steps toward that vision – despite the ebbs and flows of the economy, changes in the political climate and demographic shifts in the state. For example, CCLP was instrumental in establishing a statewide Earned Income Tax Credit, so that hardworking Colorado families could better meet their financial needs. We also took a lead role in expanding Medicaid so that Coloradans who can’t afford health insurance can still get vital health services.

Looking back at the past decade, Colorado has done well across many job-related metrics. According to CCLP’s State of Working Colorado 2016, the state gained nearly 271,000 jobs since 2007 and median household income last year surpassed the pre-recession level — reaching $63,900. But while Colorado has come a long way since the Great Recession, far too many Colorado families still struggle to pay rent or cover their other basic needs. The State of Working Colorado shows that workers throughout the state face wage stagnation, underemployment and race-based income gaps as Colorado’s cost of living surges upward.

Though job growth in Colorado has been impressive, it isn’t keeping up with the state’s population growth. Overall labor force participation is still below pre-recession levels with men ages 25 to 54 in their prime working years most prominently missing from Colorado’s labor force. Too many Coloradans simply don’t have the education or skills they need to participate in the booming economy, leaving them on the sidelines or relegating them to low-wage service jobs to support their families. The median hourly wage has fallen or remained flat since 2010 and more than one in four households in Colorado can’t meet their basic needs without public or private support. Additionally, an estimated 294,000 Coloradans live in “deep poverty,” defined as $5,885 per year for an individual and $10,045 for a family of three last year.

While I’m encouraged that Colorado voters recognized that wages are too low and voted to increase the minimum wage last November, the challenges that so many Coloradans face won’t be resolved by the minimum wage hike alone.

In the year ahead, CCLP will engage workers, employers and policymakers in a dialogue. We’ll discuss giving Coloradans the tools they need to reach their potential so everyone can contribute fully to our economy. We will listen with open minds, work with our coalition partners and develop policies to remove barriers and create opportunities for all Coloradans.

Here are our goals and priorities for the year ahead and beyond:

* We will develop and support policies that encourage Coloradans working toward economic security. For example, CCLP backs renewal of a bill that makes child care more affordable for Colorado’s lowest-wage workers by granting an income tax credit for child care expenses. We support measures that make it easier for those left behind in the economic recovery to get skills training so that they can find jobs that put them on a path to self-sufficiency while strengthening Colorado’s economy. We also favor transparency among private occupational schools so that prospective students know what they’re getting for their investment. We’ll continue to explore how to extend job opportunities for Coloradans with criminal records so they can provide for their families and not be a burden to the state budget.

* We will address factors contributing to rising costs in the health care system. CCLP took a leading role in establishing the Colorado Commission on Affordable Health Care, which made policy recommendations to the legislature and the governor for lowering health care costs in the state. Furthermore, we’ll work on measures to limit co-payments on prescription drugs and require drug-makers to disclose information for what’s potentially driving up the costs of drugs. We’ve joined 108 other organizations – ranging from businesses and hospitals to other advocacy groups – who are imploring Colorado’s Congressional delegation to outline how they plan to provide health coverage for Coloradans who benefitted from the Affordable Care Act before voting to gut that Act. We’ll also support legislation that will reduce the risk of Medicaid recipients losing their health coverage due to inadequate and confusing notification letters.

* We will work with legislators to house the homeless and protect low-income renters from the risk of homelessness by supporting affordable housing efforts and tenant’s rights legislation. We’ll also join with our partners to fight predatory lending practices that put low-income families at risk of losing the assets they worked so hard to acquire when faced with a large unexpected expense.

Mark Twain once famously said “No man’s life, liberty or property are safe while the legislature is in session.” While there is a ring of truth in the great author’s sardonic words, the inverse is also true. Any given legislature can actually improve life, liberty and economic security for their constituents if they set out to do that armed with good research and visionary ideas.

As the General Assembly prepares to convene, we’re hopeful and optimistic the latter scenario will unfold. Regardless, CCLP will continue to forge pathways from poverty — keeping the best imagined future of all Coloradans in mind.

Happy new year.

– Claire Levy

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.


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.