Apr 24, 2017

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Legislative Update: April 24, 2017

by | Apr 24, 2017

Bill to Watch: HB 1002
In 2014, CCLP championed a successful bill to introduce a child-care tax credit for workers earning less than $25,000 a year with child care expenses. The 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 every year to help defray child care costs for low-income working parents.

With the current law set to expire on Jan. 1, 2018, House Bill 1002, sponsored by Rep. Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood, would expand this important tax credit for three more income tax years. As the lead organization behind HB 1002, CCLP strongly supports the legislation.

HB 1002 was introduced early this year and identified by Speaker of the House Crisanta Duran, D-Denver, as a priority for this session. On Feb. 27, it was approved by the House Finance Committee with a strong bipartisan vote of 12-1. After that strong start, the legislation has waited in the dock for consideration by the House Appropriations Committee as lawmakers hammered out the state budget. With the end of the 2017 session in sight, we are concerned that the delay has led to failure to account in the budget for the $6 million in revenue lost from the tax credit, which may doom the bill.

As of this writing, the legislature has not yet approved the state budget and there is still an opportunity to incorporate funding for HB 1002 into the budget so that hardworking Colorado families can continue to get financial relief from the high cost of child care. Please reach out to legislators and voice your support for HB 1002.

Learn more about the bill in this CCLP fact sheet.

On the Radar: SB 292
Despite Colorado’s low unemployment rate, some single parents still struggle to find employment. They may be hampered by caregiving responsibilities, lack of in-demand job skills, irregular work history, transportation or other challenges to employment.

Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF, or Colorado Works) provides a small monthly stipend of $364 per month for a parent and child. What most families need, however, is a way to get (and keep) a job that could eventually lead to a living wage.

The Joint Budget Committee’s Senate Bill 292 authorizes the Colorado Department of Human Services to develop an employment program to help Colorado Works participants obtain permanent living-wage jobs by funding subsidized employment, apprenticeships, on-the-job training and transitional jobs. SB 292 is sponsored by Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud and Rep. Bob Rankin, R-Carbondale. The three-year program is funded at $4 million per year from federal TANF funds.

CDHS will build upon their experience administering the Hire Colorado program (funded with federal stimulus money during the Great Recession) and the current ReHire Transitional Jobs program, which prioritizes unemployed veterans, non-custodial parents, and workers over 50 years old.

CCLP supports this legislation because it can help parents get on track to becoming valued workers and successful providers for their children.

Legislation earns wings
On Monday, SB 245 received final approval from the Colorado House of Representatives in a bipartisan vote of 39-26. Commonly known as the Notice to Quit Act, SB 245 extends the notification period for rent increases, or notices to vacate property, from seven to 21 days. Developed by Colorado Center on Law and Policy, SB 245 was sponsored by Sen. Kevin Priola, R-Henderson and Rep. Dan Pabon, D-Denver. The legislation now heads to the desk of Gov. John Hickenlooper to be signed into law.

Late last month, Gov. Hickenlooper signed SB 110. Sponsored by Sen. Larry Crowder, R-Alamosa, and Sen. John Kefalas, D-Fort Collins, the legislation would ease the regulatory burden on home-based child care providers so they could supervise more children without having to become a licensed child care provider so long as the children were related to the caregiver or to each other or both. CCLP supported the legislation in part because it would expand access to legal child care options for families – especially in “child-care deserts” where affordable child care options are hard to find.

– By Bob Mook

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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.