Feb 12, 2016

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Legislative Update: Feb. 12, 2016

by | Feb 12, 2016

Imagine a living minimum wage
No matter where you live in Colorado, the minimum wage would not pay enough to support a family.  According to the Colorado Center on Law and Policy’s Self-Sufficiency Standard for Colorado 2015, an adult with an infant and a preschooler in Morgan County would need to make $20.02 an hour to cover the family’s basic needs without public assistance. That’s $11.71 an hour more than Colorado’s minimum wage of $8.31. In fact, among Colorado’s 65 counties, the minimum wage only pays enough to support a one-person household in Bent, Otero and Custer Counties.

While Colorado’s minimum wage is higher than the federal minimum wage, it only totals $17,284 as a full-time income – well below the federal poverty level of $20,090 for a family of three. Since families earning minimum wage struggle to support themselves, the onus often falls on state and local governments (and ultimately, taxpayers) to help cover the increasingly high cost of living in the state. According to a CCLP briefing published last year, empirical evidence overwhelmingly indicates that restoring power to local governments to set a local minimum wage above the statewide minimum has positive effects on workers, employers and local economies.

To that point, Senate Bill 54 would permit local governments to set the minimum wage at a level that is appropriate for their own municipality, residents and economy. A similar measure failed in the 2015 legislative session. Sponsored by Sen. Michael Merrifield, D- Colorado Springs, the bill faces an uphill battle in the Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee, where it will be heard on Feb. 17. A representative for CCLP will testify in support of legislation.

Whatever the fate of SB 54, the minimum wage simply doesn’t provide adequate compensation and hampers self-sufficiency for Colorado families. That’s why CCLP will continue to work with other organizations to raise the wage throughout the state.

Bill to Watch: HB 1148
More than three years after its launch, Connect for Health Colorado has endured its share of highly publicized technical, administrative and budgetary challenges. But because Colorado’s health benefit exchange serves as the conduit to ensure that low-income families can access the tax credits that enable them to afford health insurance, CCLP has worked hard to ensure that it functions well.

House Bill 1148 is an effort to increase transparency and enhance public participation in Connect’s decision-making processes. It also provides the Legislative Oversight Committee with additional information about Connect’s operations.

The legislation is sponsored by Rep. Lang Sias, R-Arvada, Rep. Diane Primavera, D-Broomfield, Sen. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango and Sen. John Kefalas, D-Fort Collins. As introduced, the bill was overly broad and confusing. The exchange would have been required to create a process to allow public participation on a wide variety of policy decisions.  CCLP believed such a requirement would have made it impossible for the staff to function since virtually everything they do directly or indirectly affects consumers. CCLP worked with its partners and HB 1148’s sponsors, particularly, Rep. Sias, to amend the legislation so that it would accomplish its original goals without adversely complicating Connect’s operations.

The bill, which CCLP supports in its amended form, passed unanimously in the House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee on Wednesday and now goes to the House floor for action.

On the Radar
SB 27 would give Medicaid recipients in Colorado the option to receive Medicaid prescriptions by mail. CCLP supports this bipartisan legislation, which was approved by the Senate Health & Human Services Committee and is awaiting consideration from the Senate Appropriations Committee.

SB 118 would direct the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to develop a questionnaire to screen for prenatal substance use so that referrals for treatment could be made to address early childhood development, behavioral and education issues. CCLP is currently neutral on the bill but is concerned that the legislation could disproportionately affect low-income families, resulting in referrals to social services, and does nothing to make appropriate treatment or services available.

Off the Radar
The Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee indefinitely postponed SB 57, which would have granted the Division of Housing more power to promote the development, safety and maintenance of mobile home communities across the state. The bill was supported by CCLP and sponsored by Sen. John Kefalas, D-Fort Collins.

Responsible Re-Entry update
CCLP is developing legislation that will open up opportunities for job-seekers with criminal records.  Learn more in this recent article in The Durango Herald and this segment on Colorado Public Radio. To get more involved, check our Responsible Re-entry webpage.

Women’s Legislative Breakfast
Rosemary Lytle, Executive Director of Positive Impact Colorado and President of NAACP’s Colorado, Montana and Wyoming State Area Conference, will be the keynote speaker at the 27th Annual Women’s Legislative Breakfast. The event takes place Feb. 23 at the Scottish Rite Masonic Center, 1370 Grant St. in Denver. This annual event sells out every year, so register now.

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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.