Apr 5, 2019

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.

Legislative Update: April 5, 2019

by | Apr 5, 2019

Bills to Watch: HB 1257 and 1258
As CCLP’s Executive Director and former state Rep. Claire Levy pointed out while testifying in front of the House Finance Committee on Monday, the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (or TABOR) wasn’t designed to adjust the state’s budget according to the needs of the people of Colorado. It was devised “for the expressed purpose to strangle government to the point of ineffectiveness.”

Thanks to creative and wise leadership among legislators, state government hasn’t yet imploded since voters approved TABOR in 1992, but legislators are running out of options to get by. Meanwhile, the state’s infrastructure, roads and educational institutions are in tatters 27 years after TABOR’s approval.

During her testimony, Levy noted that the state has been forced to confront significant problems in mental health, child welfare, criminal justice, education, and natural disasters, with what Levy characterized as “insufficient half-measures, inadequate pilot programs, ineffective work-arounds, and hopeful, but hopeless, reliance on ‘gifts, grants and donations.’”

Sponsored by House Speaker KC Becker, Rep. Julie McCluskie, and Sens. Lois Court and Kevin Priola, House Bills 1257 and 1258 would let voters decide in November if excess revenues above the TABOR limit could be used to provide funding for public schools, higher education and roads, bridges and transit, rather than refunding the money to taxpayers in years when the economy is doing well. It’s well-known that TABOR’s restraints effectively prevent Colorado from keeping up with its population growth.

CCLP joins its partners in the advocacy community, business interests and community organizations in supporting these important bills. While the simple act of lifting the TABOR revenue and spending cap will not entirely restore Colorado government to how a properly functioning representative government should operate, it’s a good start.

On the Radar
Speaking of Colorado’s fiscal restraints, now that state legislators have a budget to work with, they can begin the process of prioritizing many bills piling up in the House and Senate Appropriations Committees.

This year, lawmakers have allocated $40 million between both chambers for bills that require new spending. Legislative caucuses will convene over the weekend to help lawmakers determine what legislation with fiscal notes should be funded.

Among the CCLP-supported bills waiting for funding appropriations are:  

House Bill 1223, which would create a program to help Coloradans apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) — two federal programs that help people with disabilities meet their needs by providing them with monthly income support. CCLP estimates that Colorado could realize a $6.2 million return from a $3.6 million investment in application assistance by reducing spending on state assistance. Learn more about the legislation in this blog by CCLP’s Allison Neswood.

Developed by CCLP and Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, Senate Bill 180 would appropriate funds to provide legal assistance for Coloradans facing eviction and help them to avoid the financial devastation from a forced move.

Another CCLP-led measure, HB 1013, would extend Colorado’s child care tax credit for households earning less than $25,000 beyond 2020, when the credit is due to expire. The tax credit is essential in defraying the cost of child care, which is consistently one of the highest-ticket basic needs for working families.

Developed by the Colorado Skills to Compete Coalition, HB 1107 would establish a three-year pilot program that would provide funds to community-based organizations that work with people who are trying to get into the workforce or improve their skills to get a better-paying job. These organizations would be able to help people with unexpected expenses (such as babysitting for a sick kid or car repairs) that could derail their job training or employment prospects.

Additionally, The Property Tax/Rent/Heat Credit Rebate (commonly known as the PTC Rebate) is also in House Appropriations. Sponsored by Rep. Tony Exum and Sen. Rachel Zenzinger, House Bill 1085 would modestly increase eligibility, and the amounts and income thresholds for the PTC rebate, while indexing the rebates to inflation in the future.

Finally, CCLP supports HB 1239, which would create a grant program within the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, which would be awarded to local governments and nonprofits throughout the state to increase outreach efforts for the U.S. Census – ensuring that every Coloradan counts and that the state receives adequate federal funding.

As legislators prepare to take action, we encourage you to contact your state representatives and urge them to support these bills that invest in the health and well-being of Coloradans.

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.

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.