Mar 4, 2016

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Legislative Update: March 4, 2016

by | Mar 4, 2016

Bill to Watch: HB 1290

Despite declining unemployment rates, many Coloradans – particularly older workers who were displaced by the economic downturn of 2008 — still struggle to find good jobs because their skills and experience have become outdated since the Great Recession shook up the job market. House Bill 1290, sponsored by Rep. Daneya Esgar, D-Pueblo and Rep. Tracy Kraft-Tharp, D-Arvada, extends funding for ReHire Colorado, a successful transitional jobs program, from 2017 until the end of 2021.

Administered by the Colorado Department of Human Services, ReHire Colorado combines temporarily subsidized work, job-skills training and supportive services to help individuals facing barriers to employment succeed in the workforce. Coloradans whose family income is less than 150 percent of the federal poverty level are eligible to apply. HB 1290 is endorsed by CCLP and the Skills2Compete Colorado coalition which CCLP coordinates. The legislation has bipartisan support and is part of a package of workforce bills backed by Gov. John Hickenlooper. Learn more about the legislation in this editorial in The Pueblo Chieftain.

On the Radar
SB 22, which would expand a pilot program to mitigate the cliff effect in childcare subsidies, was passed with bipartisan support by both chambers and is currently running a victory lap to the governor’s office on its way to becoming law. The bill was championed by the Bell Policy Center, supported by CCLP and sponsored by Sen. Beth Martinez Humenik, R-Thornton. HB 1156 expands the coverage of a law that prohibits employers from terminating or disciplining workers who disclose their salary or wages with other co-workers. The bill has been assigned to the House Committee on Business Affairs and Labor.

Off the Radar
HB 1045 was killed by the House Finance Committee by a vote of 8-3. The bill would have removed a requirement imposed by previous state legislation that made payment of Colorado’s Child Tax Credit to low- and moderate-income families with children under six contingent on Congress passing legislation to tax Internet sales.

A recent court decision on the so-called Amazon tax law and Amazon’s decision to begin collecting taxes from Colorado shoppers did not appease lawmakers’ concerns about the bill’s $68 million budgetary impact. CCLP supported the legislation because of its potential to relieve the financial stress of low-income families.

– Bob Mook

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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.