Sep 25, 2020

Charles serves as CCLP's Income and Housing Policy Director using data and research to support our efforts to stand with diverse communities across Colorado in the fight against poverty. Staff page ›

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.

New report highlights gender and racial inequities in Colorado

by | Sep 25, 2020

While Colorado has made progress towards strengthening women’s economic security, women around the state continue to face challenges, discrimination and violence, according to a new report.

Authored by Colorado Center on Law and Policy for the Women’s Foundation of Colorado The Cost of Failing to Invest in Women, explores how the economic security of women in Colorado has changed over past decades.

The research featured in the report centers around eight main topics: gender norms; barriers to women’s economic security; women and the workplace; investments in women; women and business; women, disasters, and epidemics; women and health; and gender income and wealth gap.

Income and wages lag behind men
Although women joined the labor force in record numbers prior to the global pandemic, they still were still paid less than men — both on the whole and within the same occupations.  In 2016, women in Colorado were paid 86 cents for every dollar paid to men, with even greater gaps for Black women (63 cents), Native American women (56 cents) and Hispanic/Latina women (54 cents).

While these gaps have been closing, the overall gender pay gap will not close under the current rate of change until 2057 — 37 years from 2020. This gender wage gap is a challenge for women, as it represents lost earnings that could otherwise have gone towards supporting their economic security.

Due to the gap, women in Colorado will lose an average of $322,320 over the course of their lifetime, and likely more for women of color. If women were paid the same as men, the poverty rate for working women would be cut in half and the state’s economy would grow by an additional $9.2 billion dollars, or 3 percent of Colorado’s GDP in 2014.

Significant racial-equity gaps
One theme that runs throughout the report is the importance of examining gender gaps through a racial lens to better understand how economic security for women differs based on a woman’s racial/ethnic identity.

For instance, while women of all racial/ethnic groups earned less than their male counterparts, the median income for a white women was $49,721 in 2017 — $6,455 more than the median income for Asian women that same year (the racial group with the next-highest median female income). The gap between white women and Hispanic/Latina women was even larger at over $16,000.

While it is a laudable goal to close the pay gap between men and women, it is also important to understand that women of color face both a gender gap and racial gap in income. In other words, the disparities in outcomes between male and female Coloradans are created by a combination of sexism and racism and it will be necessary to confront both if we are to close gender gaps in an equitable manner.

In many places, the economic effects of sexism and racism combine and lead to even greater repercussions within their communities. For example, four million new jobs and $981 billion in revenue would be added nationwide if the average revenue of firms owned by women of color matched that of white women-owned businesses, providing an influx of income and employment opportunities for both men and women of color.

When women prosper, the economy prospers. By maximizing opportunities for all women to have access to education, job training, and placement in careers that allow them to earn livable wages, achieve pay equity, career advancement, or even start their own business, we strengthen the economic engines of our communities at all scales of society.

As a follow-up to this report, CCLP assisted the Women’s Foundation of Colorado in developing a framework for future research into the state of women’s economic security in Colorado.

Given the economic impacts of COVID-19 on our state, future research conducted by WFCO on this topic will be a valuable resource to policymakers and elected officials as we begin to recover from this latest recession.

-By Charles Brennan

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.


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.