Apr 4, 2017

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News Release: House Bill 1305 would give Coloradans a chance to compete in the workforce

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

MEDIA CONTACT

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

DENVER — 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 developed by Colorado Center on Law and Policy.

Known as the Colorado Chance to Compete Act, House Bill 1305 would prohibit most employers from asking about criminal history on initial job applications. Should this legislation pass, Colorado would join nine other states that have adopted similar laws. Studies show that when states and local governments enact such policies, job applicants are more likely to land face-to-face interviews, be judged on their merits alone and secure employment.

“When so many of our neighbors live in the shadows because of a mistake they made years ago, we can’t rightfully claim to have the best economy in the country,” said Rep. Jovan Melton, D-Aurora, who is sponsoring the legislation. “In 2014 alone, the unemployment of people with criminal histories cost the U.S. between $78 billion and $87 billion in lost GDP. That is unacceptable. I am proud to sponsor the Colorado Chance to Compete Act because it will let those who have paid their debts to society to reenter the workforce, provide for their families and contribute fully to their communities.”

Criminal justice experts consistently report that one of the biggest deterrents from reoffending is the ability to reenter the workforce. The Colorado Chance to Compete Act would remove this barrier through a reasonable approach that is fair to all involved. Businesses can still conduct a criminal background check at any point and applicants would get a fair shot at getting a job.

“This bill will allow people to take care of themselves and their families,” said Rep. Mike Foote, DLafayette, who is co-sponsoring the legislation. “For far too long, our approach to criminal justice has focused solely on enforcement and deterrence, with little consideration for what these folks are supposed to do once they have paid their debts to society. If the Chance to Compete Act passes, having made a mistake will no longer impose a life sentence of poverty on the offender and his or her children.”

It is estimated that the parents of 60,000 children in Colorado have experienced incarceration. When these individuals return home, it is critical that they can compete in the workforce so that their families and children receive the financial support they need.

“CCLP is concerned that people with a criminal history are unable to support themselves and their families. As a result of this bill, a qualified applicant who made mistakes in the past is more likely to be considered for a life-changing job,” said Claire Levy, CCLP’s Executive Director. Most state jobs are now subject to similar requirements as a result of a bill Levy sponsored in 2012 while serving in the legislature.

The legislation was assigned to the House Judiciary Committee. To learn more about this bill, click here.

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

PDF version available here.

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.