Dec 20, 2016

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.

News Release: State of Working Colorado Report reveals surprising wage and employment gaps in Colorado


PDF version available here.

303-573-5669, ext. 311

Report reveals surprising wage and employment gaps in Colorado

DENVER—First the good news: Colorado is doing fairly well across several job-related measures. Since 2007, the state has gained nearly 271,000 jobs. Meanwhile, Colorado’s median household income finally surpassed the pre-recession level — reaching $63,900 last year.

Unfortunately, such good news doesn’t tell the full story about employment and income in Colorado. According to the recently released State of Working Colorado 2016, a growing number of Coloradans face wage stagnation, under-employment, race-based income gaps and poverty as Colorado’s cost of living continues to surge upward. Among this year’s findings:

  • Though job creation has been strong in Colorado, overall labor force participation is still below pre-recession levels. The people most prominently missing from Colorado’s labor force are men ages 25 to 54. Labor-force participation among men of color rose more quickly than for White men during the economic recovery. Those who experience long-term unemployment are more likely than those who experience short-term unemployment to drop out of the labor market.
  • Race-based economic disparities remain a persistent problem in Colorado. By 2050, 48 percent of the state’s labor force will consist of people of color – primarily Latino. Median household income among Latino households increased by 9 percent between 2007 and 2015 but still lags significantly behind White median household income. In 2015, Latino median income was $46,000 or 65 percent of the White median income of $70,500.
  • The median hourly wage has fallen or remained flat since the recovery began in 2010. Economic gains are increasingly concentrated among a small share of high earners in the state. Meanwhile, a growing number of jobs pay less than what’s needed to support the health and well-being of most Coloradans. In 2000, an estimated 10 percent of jobs paid less than the self-sufficiency wage. By contrast, that number more than doubled to nearly 21 percent of jobs in 2015. Also in 2015, the median hourly wage in Colorado was $18.49 – still below the 2007 median wage of $19.32.
  • Job growth isn’t keeping up with Colorado’s population growth. As of September 2016, Colorado’s economy had 2.62 million jobs. But to keep up with the state’s rapid population growth, Colorado needs to create nearly 118,000 additional jobs or an average of 7,500 jobs a month over the next three years to return to pre-recession employment levels.
  • Involuntary part-time workers remain above historic levels. Though the share of involuntary part-time workers has dropped steadily since 2010, 15.4 percent of part-time workers said they would prefer a full-time job. That’s still slightly above the pre-recession level.
  • A significant number of Coloradans live in poverty. The report shows that more than one in four households in Colorado can’t meet their basic needs without public or private support. Additionally, an estimated 294,000 Coloradans live in “deep poverty.” Deep poverty was defined as $5,885 per year for an individual and $10,045 for a family of three last year.

Published by Colorado Center on Law and Policy, the annual State of Working Colorado collects critical data designed to look beyond broad-based economic indicators to better understand how the economy is functioning for all Coloradans across the income spectrum and throughout the state.

“While Colorado has come a long way since the Recession, too many Colorado families still struggle to pay rent or cover their other basic needs,” said Claire Levy, Executive Director of CCLP. “I’m encouraged that Colorado voters recognized that wages are too low and voted to increase the minimum wage, but this report shows there’s much more work to be done. We hope State of Working Colorado will spur a dialogue between workers, employers, and policymakers on how to give Coloradans the tools they need to reach their human potential so everyone can contribute fully to our economy.”

The report, including an executive summary, is available at CCLP’s website at

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.


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.