May 4, 2017

Recent articles

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.

CCLP testifies in support of TANF grant rule change

CCLP's Emeritus Advisor, Chaer Robert, provided written testimony in support of the CDHS rule on the COLA increase for TANF recipients. If the rule is adopted, the cost of living increase would go into effect on July 1, 2024.

Legislative Update: May 4, 2017

by | May 4, 2017

The final countdown
With only four more days left in the 2017 Colorado legislative session, here’s the low-down on how our bills did this week:

ALIVE (AND IN NEED OF SUPPORT): We’re pleased that House Bill 1002 was approved by the House on Wednesday with a strong bipartisan vote of 41-16. Sponsored by Rep. Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood, the legislation renews the child-care tax credit for low-income families.

In 2014, CCLP championed the bill that created a tax credit for workers earning less than $25,000 a year who have child care expenses. Since the passage of the bill, over 32,000 families have claimed the credit, providing a total of $4.9 million every year to help defray child care costs for low-income working parents. That bill included a “sunset” provision that ended the tax credit after the 2017 tax year. HB 1002 ensures that low-income parents can continue to enjoy the established tax credit for another three years.

HB 1002 heads the Senate on Friday, where it is co-sponsored by Sens. Beth Martinez Humenik, R-Thornton and John Kefalas, D-Fort Collins. CCLP is hopeful that state Senators will realize the value in giving low-income families relief from child-care expenses so that parents can build a foundation for self-sufficiency.

Please let members of the Senate Finance Committee know you support the bill, which is scheduled to be considered May 5 in the morning. If approved, HB 1002 could be considered by Senate Appropriations Committee as soon as Friday afternoon, so please contact members of that committee as well!

DEAD: CCLP is perplexed that a measure as reasonable and nonpartisan as HB 1312 went down on party lines in the Senate State, Veterans & Military Affairs Committee on Thursday.

HB 1312 would have enacted a basic, common courtesy in the tenant-landlord relationship into law. In short, the bill would have required landlords to provide a copy of a signed lease so that tenants could understand the terms of their living arrangement. It also required landlords to provide a receipt of rent payments made by cash or money order upon request.

That’s it in a nutshell. Frankly, it’s surprising that Colorado doesn’t already have such a law on the books. Because it is common for low-income renters to pay rent with cash or money order, there is no record of a transaction unless a landlord provides a receipt of payment. As a result, many Colorado renters have been vulnerable to eviction or late charges because they were not able to prove that they had already paid rent – creating greater instability for those who are struggling to make ends meet.

Apart from the legislators who voted against it, HB 1312 had no opposition. Even the most likely opponent, the Colorado Apartment Association, declared a neutral position. The bill appears to have fallen victim to reflexive partisan voting given the lack of explanation from committee members. Regardless, we’d like to thank our House and Senate sponsors and all those who supported the bill.

On Monday, the Senate State, Veterans & Military Affairs Committee killed HB 1310 on another party-line vote. The bill would have limited the application fee a landlord may charge a prospective tenant to cover the cost of a personal reference check, consumer credit report or tenant-screening report. CCLP thanks Reps. Chris Kennedy and Dominique Jackson, and Sen. Stephen Fenberg, for sponsoring the bill.

Also on Monday, the Senate State, Veterans & Military Affairs Committee killed HB 1305 on party-lines. Commonly known as the Chance to Compete Act, the legislation would have provided unemployed people with an opportunity to pursue a job without having to disclose criminal history on an initial application.

CCLP would like to thank the bill’s sponsors, Rep. Mike Foote Rep. Jovan E. Melton and Sen. Lucia Guzman, for their hard work. We’d also like to thank our coalition partners, including faith-based groups, nonprofit organizations, business owners and the Colorado Department of Corrections, for their amazing support.

Though we are disappointed by this setback, the basic premise of HB 1305 — that everyone should have the opportunity to apply for a job despite their past mistakes — seems to be taking root in Colorado and nationwide. After all, giving people a chance to work is one of the surest ways to build financial security and to reduce the probability those with criminal records will reoffend. We will continue to seek support for this commonsense idea that could make a difference in the lives of millions of Coloradans.

OTHER THOUGHTS: As with any legislative session, things get crazy in the final days. Indeed, we haven’t even mentioned SB 267, which would create an enterprise to collect and administer the hospital provider fee and provide other services for Colorado hospitals – but with many different strings attached, including raising co-payments on Medicaid recipients and reducing how much revenue the state can raise to fund state services.

That bill is changing rapidly, and an amendment that creates an entirely new bill will replace the original bill when it receives its first committee hearing. Not having access to the new bill language, the most CCLP can say at this point is that removing the funds generated by the hospital provider fee from the state budget is critical for the future of health care in Colorado and for Colorado in general.  Indeed, the bill will provide more funds for schools, transportation, and capital improvements, and reduce personal property taxes on businesses. But, we are extremely disappointed that achieving that benefit could only be done by imposing a cost on low-income Coloradans.

Look for a more comprehensive analysis of the 2017 session in next week’s edition of CCLP Heads-Up. Also read our blogs and follow us on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with our work in real time!

-By Bob Mook

Recent articles

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.

CCLP testifies in support of TANF grant rule change

CCLP's Emeritus Advisor, Chaer Robert, provided written testimony in support of the CDHS rule on the COLA increase for TANF recipients. If the rule is adopted, the cost of living increase would go into effect on July 1, 2024.

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.