Apr 5, 2018

Recent articles

CCLP testifies in support of Clean Slate updates

Bethany Pray, CCLP’s Chief Legal and Policy Officer, provided testimony in support of House Bill 24-1133, Criminal Record Sealing & Expungement Changes. CCLP is in support of HB24-1133, as it is one of our priority bills.

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.

Emergency funds would help Coloradans get back to work

by | Apr 5, 2018

At first glance, Colorado’s economy looks healthy and vibrant. Business owners are optimistic, unemployment remains low and key sectors of our economy are posting strong hiring numbers.

Research from CCLP paints a less rosy picture. Six years into the economic recovery, underemployment remains high, median household income varies significantly by county and nearly one in five working-age Coloradans are still not working. Moreover, economists in Colorado fear there won’t be enough qualified workers to satisfy job growth, creating a labor shortage that will have negative consequences for the state’s economy.

To address these issues, and to ensure that every Coloradan has access to the skills training and education they need to become financially self-sufficient, CCLP coordinates the Skills2Compete Colorado Coalition.

Since 2016, Skills2Compete has conducted research and outreach across 63 of Colorado’s 64 counties to determine if there are enough resources to serve Colorado’s low-income jobseekers. After conducting dozens of interviews and outside research, our attention focused on the efficacy and availability of support services— such as emergency child care, or transportation assistance – to help Coloradans with employment challenges pursue skills-training or employment opportunities.

Nearly 100 organizations engaged in skills training and employment services, businesses and other key stakeholders — were interviewed throughout this process. With few exceptions, representatives from these entities affirmed that support services are critical to help those with employment barriers successfully pursue jobs or training opportunities and stay employed.

Unfortunately, our research and outreach revealed significant gaps in the availability of support services, and in particular emergency support services for immediate needs. Data from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, for instance, reveals significant unmet support-service needs among job-training participants across the country. Moreover, from Durango to Fort Morgan, from Lamar to Craig and up and down the I-25 corridor, those we interviewed almost universally espoused the need for a fund that would address the immediate, low-dollar needs of the job-seekers they work with every day.

No low-income person should have to forego a training or employment opportunity simply because they can’t afford a licensure or certification, a set of work clothes or tools, or a tank of gas the day of a potentially life-changing interview. But as our outreach to countless organizations illuminated, too many Coloradans experience employment setbacks for those exact reasons. From a statistical standpoint, these interviews are validated by the fact that 46 percent of all Americans couldn’t cover a $400 emergency expense.

Fortunately, a bill developed by CCLP and the Skills2Compete Coalition seeks to address the immediate, low-cost needs that stand in the way of Coloradans pursuing a job-training or employment opportunity. Sponsored by Rep. James Coleman, D-Denver, and Sen. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora, House Bill 1310 would provide public agency and nonprofit staff with  last-resort funding source for low-income job-seekers at pivotal times in entering or re-entering the workforce.

No one disputes that Colorado is a leader in the nation in workforce development and skills training. We have state-of-the-art apprenticeship programs, stellar nonprofit employment agencies, an effective transitional jobs program, strong rural training providers and a dedicated fund to promote job opportunities available in high-demand industries. Collectively, these programs help grow and diversify our economy and give Coloradans the tools they need to become financially self-sufficient.

The strength of these programs is undermined, however, when the progress of their participants is derailed by a low-cost financial emergency such as a broken car alternator, a malfunctioning cell-phone or $20 balance in unpaid rent. With benefits capped at $400 per eligible individual, per year, HB 1310 would complement our state’s job-training and employment programs by ensuring their participants can withstand an unexpected financial emergency.

Poverty, a disability, lack of transportation and other barriers have made it difficult for a significant portion of Colorado’s population to obtain in-demand skills or re-enter the workforce. While HB 1310 won’t single-handedly resolve the many challenges low-income job-seekers face, we believe it will provide a necessary helping hand to those who are actively trying to make a better life for themselves and their families, through a strategic and modest use of our state’s resources.

Learn more about HB 1310 and the robust coalition supporting it in this fact sheet.

–Kristopher Grant

Recent articles

CCLP testifies in support of Clean Slate updates

Bethany Pray, CCLP’s Chief Legal and Policy Officer, provided testimony in support of House Bill 24-1133, Criminal Record Sealing & Expungement Changes. CCLP is in support of HB24-1133, as it is one of our priority bills.

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.

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.