Mar 17, 2016

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News Release: Bill paves way for responsible entry into the workforce

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 17, 2016

(PDF available here.)

Bill paves way for responsible re-entry into workforce

Hundreds of thousands of Coloradans whose opportunities are limited by past mistakes could see their job prospects improve under a bill being considered by Colorado legislators.

Introduced today, House Bill 1388 would expand Colorado’s “ban the box” laws by prohibiting most employers from asking about criminal history on the initial job application. Most of the time, the question appears in a check-box commonly featured in application forms.

“Every Coloradan deserves a fair chance when applying for a job,” says Rep. Beth McCann, D-Denver, who is sponsoring the legislation. “While it is an employer’s right to consider criminal history, featuring ‘the box’ on application forms might discourage those with records from applying and could be inappropriately used as a screening device among employers. HB 1388 would allow those who have done their time to at least have a shot at gaining employment and becoming productive members of society.”

The legislation was developed by the Colorado Center on Law and Policy and is endorsed by a coalition of more than 50 organizations — including Mile High United Way, Denver Urban Ministries and local businesses.

“CCLP is concerned that people with a criminal history are unable to support themselves and their families, and are effectively sentenced to a life of poverty even though they repaid their debt to society. Under this bill, a qualified applicant who made mistakes in the past is more likely to be considered for a life-changing job,” says Claire Levy, CCLP’s Executive Director. While a state legislator, Levy sponsored a successful bill in 2012 that prohibits most state departments from querying about criminal records early in the recruiting process.

Evidence suggests that finding work ensures that those with records can continue their rehabilitation and contribute to their communities and the economy. One recent study concluded that employment is the most significant factor in decreasing recidivism. Another study found that job-seekers who indicate a criminal record on their applications are much less likely to get a job interview. Adding to the employment hurdle for a population whose employment rate and income level already lags, people of color with a criminal record are less likely than whites with a criminal record to be considered for employment.

Ban the box laws increase job opportunities for people with records. For example, after enacting fair-hiring policies, the City of Atlanta hired 10 percent more people with records between. Similarly, in Durham County, N.C., the number of applicants with records who have been recommended for hire has almost tripled since the adoption of ban the box policies. If HB 1388 is approved, Colorado would join seven states that have enacted ban the box laws in the private sector. Companies that have implemented ban the box reforms in their hiring policies include Koch Industries, Walmart, Target, Home Depot and Bed Bath & Beyond.

Ban the Box policies have been endorsed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and are supported by the Colorado Society for Human Resource Management. A growing list of the country’s best-known philanthropic organizations have banned the box as well. This legislation would open up job opportunities across the board.

“We have found that people with records are better workers than those from the general population,” says Terri Jackson of Empowercom Inc., a Denver-based technology contractor. Jackson estimates that 20 percent of the company’s 20 employees have criminal records. “Their retention, performance, productivity, attitude and career advancement is better than the average employee,” Jackson adds. “They are incentivized to come to work and stay at work. In this day of a tight labor market, this is a pool of folks who are extremely motivated.”

Bridget Sidner, a hardworking mother of two and a leader of the 9to5 Colorado advocacy organization, says she’s struggled to find and maintain employment because most Colorado employers include a criminal history box on their application forms. Sidner carries a drug-related felony from seven years ago. She says she applies for jobs daily and attends networking events regularly.

“Once I get an interview, I can speak for myself, but I just can’t get past the paperwork right now,” Sidner says, adding that HB 1388 would improve her chances of landing a job because employers could get to know her better. “My crime wasn’t against anybody but myself,” Sidner adds. “While I’ve paid my debt to society for that crime I committed, I feel it’s still being held against me in the job market.”

HB 1388 will be heard by the House Judiciary Committee. Learn more at CCLP’s Responsible Re-Entry webpage.

MEDIA CONTACT: Bob Mook, bmook@copolicy.org, 303-573-5669, ext. 311

The Colorado Center on Law and Policy is a nonprofit, non-partisan research and advocacy organization that
engages in legislative, administrative and legal advocacy on behalf of low-income Coloradans.

Recent articles

CCLP’s 2024 legislative wrap-up, part 2

CCLP's 2024 legislative wrap-up focused on expanding access to justice, removing administrative burden, supporting progressive tax and wage policies, preserving affordable communities, and reducing health care costs. Part 2/2.

CCLP’s 2024 legislative wrap-up, part 1

CCLP's 2024 legislative wrap-up focused on expanding access to justice, removing administrative burden, supporting progressive tax and wage policies, preserving affordable communities, and reducing health care costs.

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.

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.