Mar 8, 2019

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Legislative Update: March 8, 2019

by | Mar 8, 2019

Bill to Watch: SB 180
According to the Legal Services Corporation, low-income Americans received inadequate or no legal help with 86 percent of their civil legal problems.

Unfortunately, this situation is painfully evident in Colorado, where the affordable housing crisis has reached epidemic proportions. According to a 2017 study by Colorado Coalition for the Homeless and CCLP, fewer than 1 percent of tenants in Denver County were represented by an attorney during an eviction proceeding, while 90 percent of landlords were represented. However, the very few tenants able to retain an attorney were much more likely to remain in their homes.

Eviction is extremely destabilizing for individuals, families and communities. Renters who are evicted are often pushed into neighborhoods with substandard housing conditions, poorer health outcomes and more poverty. In addition, housing instability for tenants with children strains family relationships and academic performance – leading to behavioral problems, substance abuse and homelessness later in life.

Developed by CCLP, Senate Bill 180 would appropriate funds to provide legal assistance for low-income Coloradans facing eviction and help them to avoid the devastating trauma of a forced move. Sponsored by Sen. Faith Winter and Rep. Julie McCluskie, the bill has been assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Learn more about the bill and other eviction-related legislation in this article in Colorado Lawyer.

Bill to Watch: HB 1223
The federal cash assistance programs, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), help to ensure that people living with disabilities can meet their basic needs. The programs provide a monthly income that helps people with disabilities avoid homelessness, engage in health-maintenance activities and experience well-being.

But it can take a year or longer for an eligible person to get approved for these programs. Delays ensue in large part because the application process is complex and applicants must navigate it while contending with debilitating mental and/or physical health conditions. As a result, applicants are often denied multiple times because they submit applications deemed incomplete or insufficient, even though they meet the eligibility requirements. The state’s Aid to the Needy Disabled program provides $217 per month to individuals with severe disabilities while they are applying for SSI/SSDI, but AND clients struggle to meet their most basic needs and are often homeless.

Developed by CCLP, Colorado Coalition for the Homeless and Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition, House Bill 1223 would create a statewide program that helps individuals with severe disabilities navigate the process of applying for SSI and SSDI. The program will be administered by the Colorado Department of Human Services and implemented by participating counties. The bill would target Coloradans with the greatest need by making SSI/SSDI application assistance available to AND applicants and recipients.

Sponsored by Reps. Dafna Michaelson Jenet and Colin Larson and Sen. Faith Winter, the bill is scheduled to be heard by the House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee on March 19.

On the Radar
Coloradans of color fare worse on all measures than Colorado’s white residents. In fact, the gaps in economic wellbeing, health and educational attainment are so large in Colorado, that Prosperity Now’s Scorecard data gave us a racial disparity rank of 42 among the 50 states and DC. That is way too close to dead last. HB 1184 would require the non-partisan professional staff of the legislative council to prepare demographic notes on legislation to outline potential disparate effects on various populations within Colorado, as identified by race, gender, disability, age, geography, income or other relevant characteristics. The measure was approved by the House Finance Committee on a vote of 6-3. CCLP’s Allison Neswood testified in support of the bill on March 4.

So-called surprise bills can result when people receive emergency services from facilities that are not covered by their insurance plans. Those bills can be in the tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars above contracted rates. Though state law holds consumers harmless for these bills, consumers often pay them or suffer financial consequences as a result. CCLP supports HB 1174, which would outline clearer disclosure requirements for health insurance carriers, health care providers and health care facilities regarding out-of-network services and establish reimbursement standards and penalties for non-compliance. The bill was approved by the House Health & Insurance committee on a 9-0 vote on Wednesday.

– By 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.