Feb 8, 2019

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.

Legislative Update: Feb. 8, 2019

by | Feb 8, 2019

Bill to Watch: HB 1106
For many Coloradans, paying non-refundable fees just to submit a rental applications is one of the most financially onerous aspects in the search for affordable housing.

Landlords collect these fees ostensibly just to recoup costs they incur when checking for credit, criminal records and prior rental histories. These searches help ensure that prospective renters are “safe” risks who will care for their properties and pay the rent on time. But prospective renters could pay dozens of these application fees with no guarantee of securing a rental.

While it’s reasonable for property owners to be reimbursed for these expenses, there are currently no limits on what they can charge for such fees. Furthermore, there are no safeguards to ensure the fee is not simply a “moneymaker” for the landlords. In some cases, fees are being collected even when units aren’t available to rent at the time of application – a practice that’s ethically dubious, but still allowable under state law.

Unfortunately, this practice has been a significant factor in exacerbating Colorado’s affordable housing crisis. According to 9to5 Colorado, rental application fees were identified as a barrier to housing among more than half of the Colorado residents surveyed in 2017. Respondents reported paying fees as high as $145 per application – an amount much higher than the cost of screening the applicants. For struggling, low-income families, these fees can wipe out the money that’s needed for a security deposit and the first month’s rent. Meanwhile, some property owners appear to be using the application fees as an ongoing source of revenue.

House Bill 1106, sponsored by Rep. Brianna Titone, Rep. Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez and Sen. Brittany Pettersen would give renters the right to know why a landlord rejected their application. Renters would also get an itemized receipt detailing any and all fees and get a return on any unused fees. The bill was approved on a 7-4 vote by the House Business Affairs and Labor Committee.

More than a dozen states have enacted policies that set boundaries on the collection and retention of rental application fees. If Colorado is serious about improving the environment for affordable housing, legislators should establish reasonable parameters to protect renters from excessive fees. CCLP strongly supports the legislation. Learn more in this article in The Denver Post.

Bill to Watch: HB 1122
Many mothers risk death to give birth, and the risk is particularly high for black and Native American women. Available data show that black women are more likely to die from childbirth regardless of their income, level of education and access to prenatal care — all of which are associated with better birth outcomes for white women. Fortunately, a bill being considered by the Colorado legislature aims to provide the information we need to tackle this crisis in Colorado.

Sponsored by Rep. Janet Buckner, Rep. Lois Landgraf, Sen. Rhonda Fields and Sen. Bob Gardner, House Bill 1122 will create a Colorado maternal mortality review committee charged with reviewing maternal deaths in the state, identifying the causes of maternal mortality, and developing policy recommendations and best practices that will support the health and safety of pregnant and postpartum women in Colorado.

Passage of the legislation will also allow Colorado to draw down federal funds that are available for this purpose, as a result of the recently passed Preventing Maternal Deaths Act, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette of Colorado.

HB 1122 directs the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Chief Medical Officer to appoint 11 committee members and requires diversity with regard to race, ethnicity, immigration status, English proficiency, income, wealth and geography. It also requires representation from groups affected by higher maternal mortality rates and supports diversity in participation by requiring reimbursement for the costs of participation. CCLP applauds the sponsors and the proponents of this legislation for structuring a committee that can benefit from the knowledge of lived experience.

The bill will be heard in the House Public Health & Human Services Committee on Feb. 13, upon adjournment.

– By Bob Mook

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.