Mar 15, 2019

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Legislative Update: March 15, 2019

by | Mar 15, 2019

Bill to Watch: HB 1210

The cost of living varies substantially across Colorado – making it even more challenging for many Coloradans to make ends meet. Though Colorado voters in 2016 approved an incremental increase in the state’s minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2020, we know that it still will not be enough for people to live on in many communities.

Fortunately, state legislators are considering HB 1210, which would let local communities raise the minimum wage to better meet the needs of residents. The measure would repeal a bill enacted in 1999 that prohibits Colorado cities and towns from establishing a higher minimum wage than the state minimum wage.

Research indicates that restoring power to local governments to set a local minimum wage above the statewide minimum wage can have positive results for the economic security of workers, the bottom line of businesses and the health of local economies.

CCLP supports HB 1210, which passed out of the House earlier this week and has been assigned to the Senate Business, Labor & Technology Committee. The bill is sponsored by Reps. Jovan Melton and Rochelle Galindo and by Sens. Jessie Danielson and Dominick Moreno.

Bill to Watch: HB 1164

Costs are growing faster than incomes almost everywhere in Colorado – but especially to parents of young children. Indeed, findings from CCLP’s Self-Sufficiency Standard show that 50 percent of households with children under 6 years old have inadequate incomes.

In 2013, the General Assembly passed Senate Bill 1, which created a refundable child tax credit of between 5 percent and 30 percent of the federal credit for families with children age 5 and under. The credit is targeted to families with young children because that is the time that child care and other expenses are at their highest, and small investments have the greatest return. However, the Colorado CTC was only slated to go into effect if Congress passed the Marketplace Fairness Act allowing the collection of sales tax on all internet purchases.

Sponsored by Rep. Jonathan Singer and Sens. Rachel Zenzinger and Kevin Priola, House Bill 1164 would utilize sales tax revenue from online purchases that may now be collected pursuant to a United States Supreme Court decision to fund the Child Tax Credit in Colorado.As CCLP’s Chaer Robert pointed out during her testimony in support of HB 1164, most people reach their earning peak during their 40s and 50s, while having children in their 20s and 30s. The Colorado Child Tax Credit would provide targeted support to those families at their time of greatest need — as they are developing both their families and their careers.

HB 1164  is one of several tax credit bills being considered by legislators this session, including HB 1013, a CCLP-led bill that would extend Colorado’s child care tax credit for households earning less than $25,000 beyond 2020, when the credit is due to expire. Approved by the House Finance Committee in late January, HB 1013 is awaiting consideration by the House Appropriations Committee.

On the Radar:

We’re pleased to report that HB 1004 was approved by the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services on Wednesday and is heading to the Senate Appropriations Committee. If approved, the legislation would task Colorado’s department of Health Care Policy and Finance and the Division of Insurance with developing an insurance plan that would leverage state infrastructure to provide affordable, quality health care and increase competition in the individual market — particularly helping those who live in the high-cost areas of the state. CCLP supports this bill and is encouraged that the latest iteration requires consideration of how the public option would affect Coloradans who are currently eligible for financial assistance when they purchase plans through the state’s exchange, Connect for Health Colorado.

Another CCLP-led bill, HB 1118, is awaiting final approval in the House. If passed, the measure would extend the notice required before a landlord can file an eviction petition for a non-substantial lease violation – including unpaid rent – from three to 10 days. This extension ensures that Colorado tenants would have more time to find the funds to pay rent or address a landlord’s complaint before they would lose their homes. Contact Jack Regenbogen at jregenbogen@copolicy.org to support this legislation.

On Wednesday, the Senate Business, Technology & Labor Committee approved SB 188, which would establish a public insurance program to provide partial wage benefits for Coloradans who take family medical leave to care for a new child or family member with serious health issues or other life-changing circumstances. CCLP supports this effort to help hardworking Coloradans avoid bankruptcy if a family or medical emergency occurs. The bill will be heard by the House Finance Committee next.

After passing through the House with bipartisan support, HB 1025 is scheduled to be heard by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday, March 18. The bill prohibits employers from asking about criminal history on job applications. Similar legislation was developed by CCLP’s Jack Regenbogen in 2016 and again in 2017. CCLP strongly supports this legislation, which will help many Coloradans who face barriers to employment re-enter the workforce.

Recent articles

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.