Aug 17, 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.

News Release: CCLP & Hunger Free CO – Good news for Coloradans who need food stamps

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

MEDIA CONTACTS:

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

Ellie Agar
ellie@hungerfreecolorado.org
303-228-7973

DENVER (August 17, 2017) – More Coloradans who are facing difficult life circumstances and financial challenges will be able to keep their food stamp benefits under a recent set of rule changes unanimously approved by Colorado’s State Board of Human Services. Hunger Free Colorado and Colorado Center on Law and Policy (CCLP) have been coordinating with the state to adopt these new changes for more than a year.

Food stamps, federally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (or SNAP), ensure that people of all ages and backgrounds can buy groceries while they weather life storms. In addition, SNAP often serves as a short-term economic bridge. Most Colorado families and individuals who receive food stamps use them for 12 months or less, according to the USDA. Yet, Colorado ranks only 45th in the nation in SNAP access and lost out on more than $686 million in grocery sales due to a significant lag in SNAP enrollment. Currently, only three out of five eligible Coloradans are enrolled in the program, leaving 350,000 eligible-but-not-enrolled Coloradans struggling to access healthy food. Overly stringent work requirements are one of many barriers that may be keeping SNAP out of the hands of those who need it.

Currently, certain Coloradans on SNAP are subject to work requirements or mandatory participation in the Colorado Employment and Training program (known as Colorado Employment First) in order to get these benefits. Those without jobs who do not participate in Colorado Employment First are either limited to three months of food stamp benefits or sanctioned from the program for one or more months before they requalify. Often, these stringent requirements unnecessarily prevent Coloradans with difficult life circumstances from getting the food they need.

Recent federal guidance on SNAP has encouraged states to exempt a broader set of participants from work requirements for those who may not be physically or mentally able to work or participate in employment training, such as those who are experiencing homelessness. After several months of meeting and communicating with state officials, Hunger Free Colorado and CCLP helped Colorado to adopt the new rules.

Among the changes:

  • People who are experiencing chronic homelessness are no longer subject to work requirements or employment training since their situation can directly impact their mental or physical ability to pursue and maintain employment. People enduring homelessness often lack transportation, contend with physical or mental illnesses, and by definition, suffer from a lack of stable housing. For many of these Coloradans, a disruption in food assistance benefits can intensify hardship.
  • Individuals who are not fit to work can get an exemption from medical professionals such as physicians’ assistants, nurses, nurse practitioners, designated representatives of a physician’s office and licensed social workers. Previously, only physicians were allowed to grant such exemptions based on a patient’s ability to work. Expanding the types of providers who can verify someone’s unfitness to work will help many SNAP clients overcome an unnecessary procedural barrier to receiving food assistance benefits. Some people struggle to get appointments with physicians, and for many participants, a social worker serves as their main medical provider and is in the best position to verify someone’s fitness to work.
  • People who reside with juveniles will not be subject to the three-month time limits on receiving SNAP benefits. This change aligns state policy with federal requirements, and more importantly, recognizes the role that household members have in supporting child development.
  • Counties may now elect to operate a fully voluntary Employment First program for participants who are not considered “able-bodied adults without dependents.” This will save money and improve program integrity by focusing services on only the most work-ready cadre of participants.

“We applaud the Board for exempting Coloradans in difficult circumstances from requirements that prevent them from accessing the fuel needed to thrive,” said Kathy Underhill, CEO of Hunger Free Colorado. “These new rules will help tens of thousands of Coloradans maintain their food stamp benefits and receive the needed support to reach their human potential. It will also save taxpayers money by reducing the administrative costs associated with dis-enrolling and re-enrolling these individuals.”

“Clearly, SNAP is critical to reducing hunger and forging pathways from poverty in Colorado and nationwide,” said Claire Levy, Executive Director of CCLP. “We are thankful that the Board had the foresight to remove some of the barriers that could provide food for low-income Coloradans. Ultimately, these rules will reduce hunger, increase access to healthy and nutritious food, and invest in Colorado.”

Supporting SNAP improves our children’s and our state’s future. Almost 74 percent of SNAP participants in Colorado are families with children while almost 25 percent are families with members who are elderly or have disabilities. According to estimates from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, SNAP kept an average of 117,000 people out of poverty in Colorado – including 55,000 children – every year between 2009 and 2012. Additionally, Moody’s Analytics estimates that SNAP benefits pumped about $728 million into Colorado’s economy in 2016.

To learn more about food assistance and other human-service programs that support Coloradans’ health and well-being throughout their lives, visit the Human Service Gap Map, a joint project between CCLP and Hunger Free Colorado.

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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.

Hunger Free Colorado, a statewide nonprofit organization launched in 2009, connects families and individuals to food resources and fuels change in systems, policies and social views, so no Coloradan goes hungry. By leveraging the power of collaboration, innovation and partnership, we eliminate barriers to the access of affordable, nutritious food, so all Coloradans can thrive and reach their full potential. Learn more and take action at HungerFreeColorado.org.

(PDF version available here.)

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.