Jan 22, 2016

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: Jan. 22, 2016

by | Jan 22, 2016

Legislation could help low-income parents get ahead
Studies consistently show that a lack of affordable childcare limits parents’ educational goals and hampers their efforts to move out of poverty when their children would benefit the most. One quandary that low-income parents frequently encounter is that they can’t improve their skills to support their families without access to affordable childcare. Although some of Colorado’s educational and job-training institutions offer childcare services, the affordability and convenience of such programs are inconsistent. Often, the childcare that is available to parents in the regular workforce doesn’t meet the needs of parents seeking education and skills training.

To address the disconnect between the need and availability of affordable childcare for low-income parents, CCLP developed House Bill 1050, sponsored by Rep. Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood and Sen. Mike Merrifield, D-Colorado Springs. The bill would create a time-limited task force charged with evaluating how state agencies could meet the childcare needs of low-income parents who wish to advance their education. Members of the task force would include representatives of several state agencies, counties, representatives of organizations that serve parents who have sought or completed education and training, and parents themselves.

The task force will be charged with streamlining administrative processes for making childcare more available and making recommendations for future legislative changes, if needed. The legislation has garnered support from the All Families Deserve a Chance (AFDC) Coalition, the Bell Policy Center, the Colorado PTA, Skills2Compete Colorado, the Women’s Foundation of Colorado, the Center for Work Education and Employment and the Colorado Children’s Campaign. Further details about the bill are available in this fact sheet. You can also learn about the legislation in this blog posting from CCLP’s Chaer Robert. HB 1050 is scheduled to be heard by the House Public Health Care and Human Services Committee on Jan. 26.

Committee stalls broker bill
Senate Bill 6 was turned away by the Senate Health and Human Services Committee in a 3-2 vote after CCLP’s Health Care Attorney, Bethany Pray, testified against the legislation on Wednesday. The bill would have required Colorado’s health insurance exchange, Connect for Health Colorado, to establish a system to refer consumers to qualified insurance brokers. SB 6 was supported by insurance brokers and sponsored by Sen. Beth Martinez Humenik, R-Thornton.

“Colorado should build on the work already done to reduce the numbers of uninsured, improving on our existing streamlined system for bringing people to coverage,” Bethany said. “…We oppose this bill because it does not appear to provide an identifiable benefit to consumers, it may actually result in greater costs to consumers, and it may limit access to assistance for consumers at the application stage when assistance may be most essential.” During her testimony, Bethany pointed out that the legislation was redundant and could potentially result in additional costs to consumers. She noted that Connect for Health Colorado’s website already refers visitors to locally registered brokers. Bethany also expressed concerns that the legislation would draw a hard line between those eligible for Medicaid and those who are not.

Because the bill was not postponed indefinitely by the committee, it could be revised (and revived) another time during the session.

Bill to Watch: HB 1045
Low-income and middle-class families could use all the help they can get in raising their children. That’s one of many reasons CCLP supports HB 1045. The bill would remove the requirement that Congress pass legislation to tax Internet sales to trigger payment of the State Child Tax Credit for low- and moderate-income families with children under age six. The trigger was originally imposed as a way to offset the cost of the tax credit. But with low and middle income parents facing financial need, and with Congress hopelessly deadlocked, it is time to remove that trigger. HB 1045 is backed by Colorado Fiscal Institute and sponsored by Rep. Jonathan Singer, D-Longmont and Rep. Mike Merrifield, D-Colorado Springs.

On the radar
The legislative session just started Jan. 13 and already more than 220 bills have been introduced. Among those CCLP is monitoring include:

SB 2, which would direct Colorado’s Secretary of State to submit a ballot issue on whether Connect for Health Colorado should impose a tax to support its operations. CCLP opposes the legislation.

SB 27 would allow Medicaid recipients to receive prescription drugs from local retail pharmacies by mail. CCLP supports the legislation.

HB 1015 is another attempt by Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt, R-Colorado Springs, to repeal all laws implementing the Affordable Care Act (ACC) contingent on the ACC’s repeal by Congress and the President of the United States. CCLP opposes the legislation.

Support grows for Responsible Re-Entry campaign
Close to 50 organizations have endorsed CCLP’s Responsible Re-Entry campaign. CCLP is working to build a diverse coalition to support legislation that will give more Coloradans employment opportunities by removing criminal background inquiries from preliminary job applications. The legislation under development will be sponsored by Rep. Beth McCann, D-Denver. Learn more about the campaign and our endorsers through CCLP’s Responsible Re-Entry webpage.

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.