Jan 19, 2017

An expert in policy advocacy and coalition building, Chaer has dedicated her career to helping people meet their basic needs and expanding economic opportunity. She serves on the executive committee of the All Families Deserve a Chance (AFDC) coalition. Staff page ›

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Legislative & Policy Preview 2017: Family Economic Security

by | Jan 19, 2017

During this year’s legislative session, CCLP’s Family Economic Security program will focus on expanding job opportunities and training for all Coloradans, renewing the Colorado Child Tax Credit for low-income workers, encouraging the development of more affordable housing units throughout the state and extending the notification period so that tenants without leases have enough time to relocate from their homes when their landlords order them to leave their residences or raise their rent.

We expect this year’s session to strike some familiar themes since leadership in the House and the Senate is still divided along party lines. As always, the state’s constitutional budgetary constraints will factor heavily into lawmakers’ decisions. However, the “wild card” this session seems to be how policy changes in Washington will affect Colorado. To that point, CCLP will collaborate with national partners to protect the interests of low-income Coloradans in federal policy discussions.Since Congress may delegate additional authority to states regarding critical programs and services, we are prepared to work this year with partner organizations to ensure that decision-makers in Colorado make choices that are in the best interests of struggling families throughout the state.

Below is CCLP’s legislative agenda for 2017:

Renew the Colorado Child Care Tax Credit for low-income workers
In 2014, CCLP championed a successful bill to introduce a child-care tax credit for workers earning less than $25,000 a year. Our bill established an alternative calculation method for those who did not qualify for child-care tax credits because they earned too little to owe federal income tax. Since the passage of the bill, over 32,000 families have claimed the credit, providing a total of $4.9 million to help defray the cost of child care for low-income working parents. The current law expires on Jan. 1, 2018, so we will fight for renewal of this important tax credit.

“Chance-to-compete” legislation
Society expects people to work, pay restitution and support their families after they’ve been incarcerated. Unfortunately, many Coloradans with criminal records experience unemployment, food insecurity and housing instability — fueling poverty and recidivism rates.

To address this problem, CCLP is again running legislation to address preliminary barriers to employment by prohibiting most employers from asking about past criminal records on preliminary job applications. The bill has garnered support from a diverse coalition that includes 45 different nonprofits, faith-based organizations, labor groups and businesses.

Extend notice periods for tenants without leases
In Colorado, a tenant who is renting without a lease is only assured seven-days of notice before being required to vacate their home or pay higher rent. Similarly, tenants are only required to give seven days of notification to landlords before ending their tenancy.

Only two other states have notice periods this short. The current notification period presents an extreme challenge for tenants in Colorado’s tight housing market. For families with children, older adults and people with disabilities, finding new housing can be nearly impossible in a short period of time. CCLP will run a bill to extend the notification period from seven to 28 days. This bill would not change the three-day eviction process for non-payment of rent or non-compliance with a lease. It also would not apply in cases when there is a lease.

Transparent consumer information for students of for-profit schools and training programs
By 2020, 74 percent of all jobs in Colorado are projected to require some level of post-secondary training. Analysts estimate that Colorado will need to increase post-secondary credentials by 2 percent annually to meet workforce needs in the future. For-profit occupational schools are an important component of post-secondary education. However, these programs tend to be more expensive than community colleges, are often unlikely to lead to gainful employment and frequently result in high debt loads and student-loan defaults. Nationally, the surge in student loan defaults in the last decade was largely concentrated among relatively older, low-income students who attended for-profit colleges.

Given this context, it’s important that students and their families have the best information available so they can make informed decisions about what types of training to pursue and what programs will prepare them for gainful employment. The Skills2Compete Colorado Coalition, led by CCLP, will run legislation requiring prospective students to receive more information about educational outcomes, such as completion rates, total costs, estimated debt load and average starting salaries for students. The legislation will also call for the state to develop comparative website to help students make informed decisions when investing in a secondary education.


Child care for education and training
Nationally, 26 percent of post-secondary students are parents. Many more parents are not able to participate in employment and training programs because of child-care obligations.

Some of the highest poverty rates are among parents of young children. Advancing a parent’s education level could improve employment prospects, increase a family’s income and help a young child’s development and future outlook. Currently, the Colorado Child Care Assistance Program is not equipped to meet the child care needs of parents who attend night classes or classes for short blocks of time. CCLP is developing a bill that would create an interagency and community task force to assess available resources, improve coordination and identify gaps in meeting the child-care needs of parents seeking to upgrade their skills for today’s job market.

Other legislation we expect to support
CCLP supports Gov. John Hickenlooper’s funding requests for affordable housing.  The governor has asked for $12 million in marijuana tax dollars to build 1,200 new permanent supportive housing units in five years for chronically homeless individuals. The allotment also will cover the cost of “rapid rehousing” units for individuals experiencing episodic homelessness. In addition, the governor has asked for $4 million of marijuana tax revenue to provide housing vouchers for people with behavioral-health issues.  CCLP supports these requests as well as a plan to appropriate $2 million per year from the general fund for the Housing Development Grant Fund, which would cover the cost of 250 affordable housing units for Coloradans who are currently spending more than 50 percent of their income on housing.

CCLP believes manufactured housing plays a critical role in promoting and preserving affordable housing in Colorado. In recent years, construction standards for manufactured housing have improved to prevent depreciation — making manufactured housing an investment that could provide long-term shelter for low-income Coloradans. CCLP is helping to craft legislation that could make it easier for owners of manufactured homes to establish resident-owned communities that would be more secure and less expensive than other residential alternatives.

We also support the Bell Policy Center’s legislation to conduct an actuarial study that could lead to the establishment of individual retirement saving accounts for those without access to other retirement savings plans. The shortfall in retirement savings is a danger both to individuals who could retire unprepared and for our state which likely would struggle to meet the needs of a growing older population that runs out of retirement savings. We also support the Bell Policy Center’s efforts to prevent financial institutions from raising interest rates on short-term consumer loans that could potentially hurt low-income Coloradans.

– Chaer Robert

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 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.

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.