May 29, 2020

Recent articles

Legislative Update: May 2020

by | May 29, 2020

It seems the word “unprecedented” is used so often in the COVID-19 era that it’s become the new precedent in all walks of life — and this year’s Colorado General Assembly is certainly no exception. Lawmakers returned to the Capitol on May 26, divided by plexiglass and with some donning face masks.

The session is expected to last only three more weeks (though a recent court ruling would let them meet for longer if necessary). That’s a lot of work to complete within a short time-frame, but here’s where things stand in terms of bills Colorado Center on Law and Policy (CCLP) is leading or co-leading:

Senate Bill 29 would increase Basic Cash Assistance by 5 percent and set a 1.5 percent cost-of-living adjustment each year moving forward. Right before the session was delayed, the bill was approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee and was heading to the Senate floor. Though the status of SB 29 is currently unclear, we hope that legislators will view it as a way to provide financial assistance to families that are struggling most.

House Bill 1009 was approved by both chambers and signed into law on March 20 and will become effective on Dec. 1 of this year. The bill will keep eviction records from public view so that tenants will not have to face a barrier to housing because of a filing that’s been dismissed or still pending. Thanks to all partner organizations and legislators (particularly Rep. Dominique Jackson and Sen. Faith Winter) who supported this important tenants’ rights legislation.

HB 1196 and HB 1201 would amend the Mobile Home Park Act to provide more stability for these neighborhoods. Both passed through the House. HB 1196 passed through the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this week and heads to the Senate Appropriations Committee. Meanwhile, HB 1201 was approved by the Senate on a second reading Thursday.

Despite passing through the House Finance Committee earlier this session, HB 1203, will be postponed indefinitely by the House Appropriations Committee. The bill would have expanded the state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and commence the payment of the Child Tax Credit by changing tax deductions for corporations.

Instead, HB 1203 sponsors Rep. Emily Sirota and Rep. Matt Gray will introduce a new bill which sweeps all proceeds from closing corporate tax loopholes into the general fund to reduce the budget gap. If passed, that bill is expected to double the state EITC in the 2022 tax year and make taxpaying immigrants eligible for the state tax credit for the first time. Immigrants have notably been excluded from federal relief and stimulus related to COVID-19 and currently don’t qualify for the federal EITC and other benefits.

Finally, HB 1236 passed through the Senate Finance Committee earlier this week and was approved on the second reading on the Senate floor on Thursday. The bill would use the regular tax-filing process to inform Coloradans of their eligibility for Medicaid, CHP+ and tax credits. Thanks to our partners for supporting this commonsense measure to ensure that more Coloradans get the health coverage they need more than ever.

-By Bob Mook

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.