Mar 11, 2016

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Legislative Update: March 11, 2016

by | Mar 11, 2016

CCLP’s Halftime Report
With the legislative session a little past the halfway mark, CCLP helped develop two bills that should be introduced during the next few weeks.

One measure, which stems from our Responsible Re-Entry project, would improve job prospects for hundreds of thousands of Coloradans whose opportunities are limited by past mistakes. Sponsored by Rep. Beth McCann, D-Denver, the measure would expand Colorado’s “ban the box” laws by prohibiting most employers from asking about criminal history on the initial job application.

CCLP also is working with Rep. Max Tyler, D-Lakewood, on legislation that would use surplus funds from the state’s unclaimed property fund to invest millions of dollars into building, rehabilitating and preserving affordable housing in Colorado and provide financial assistance to help Colorado’s lowest-income households afford rent.

Earlier in the session, CCLP worked on HB 1050, which would create a task force charged with evaluating how state agencies could coordinate meeting the childcare needs of low-income parents who wish to advance their education. The bill, which is sponsored by Rep. Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood and Sen. Mike Merrifield, D-Colorado Springs, was approved by the House Public Health Care and Human Services Committee and is awaiting approval by the House Appropriations Committee.

So far, the session has been a mixed bag for CCLP’s priorities – with many bills meeting their demise in Senate committees. On Wednesday, the Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee killed HB 1002, which would have allowed employees to take time off work to attend school-related activities for their children. Legislation guaranteeing earned sick time, reviving the Pay Equity Commission and triggering payment of the Child Tax Credit met similar fates.

On the positive side, SB 22, which would expand a pilot program to mitigate the cliff effect in childcare subsidies, has fared well. That bill gained bipartisan support, was approved by both chambers and is on its way to the governor’s desk. HB 1290 has also gained bipartisan support. The bill would extend funding from 2017 until the end of 2021 for ReHire Colorado, a successful transitional jobs program.

For a complete update on poverty-related legislation in Colorado, check out this two-page summary of bills from CCLP’s Family Economic Security Program.

Off the Radar
HB 1102, which would have required prescription drug manufacturers to provide data on cost components of expensive drugs, with a report going back to the state legislature, was killed by the House Committee on Health, Insurance and Environment on Thursday.

The legislation attempted to shed light on one of the biggest drivers of health care costs. CCLP worked on amendments that would have focused the discussion on costs incurred by the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing, but the amendment failed to pass and the committee rejected the bill by a vote of 9-4.

Despite HB 1102’s failure, CCLP will continue to encourage policymakers and health care stakeholders to look at high prescription costs and improve transparency with the goal of improving the access and affordability of health care in Colorado.

– Bob Mook

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.

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.

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.