Mar 8, 2019

Jack Regenbogen previously served as Senior Attorney at Colorado Center on Law and Policy.

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Policy could bolster food assistance for older Coloradans and people with disabilities

by | Mar 8, 2019

A new policy will go into effect March 15 that will help older adults and people with disabilities access additional benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (or SNAP).

In Colorado, households that include a person with a disability or an older adult can deduct their medical expenses from their income when applying for food stamps, federally known as SNAP, raising their monthly benefit amount. One of the eligible expenses are those related to medical transportation such as mileage, public transit fare and tolls.

Previously, mileage reimbursement in Colorado was calculated at the IRS medical rate of 20 cents per mile. The new policy will change reimbursement to the IRS business rate of 58 cents per mile.

This rule change was developed by the Colorado Center on Law and Policy and Hunger Free Colorado. It was advanced by the Colorado Department of Human Services and ratified by the Colorado Board of Human Services.

If an older adult or person with a disability has medical expenses that average at least $35 per month, they qualify for the Standard Medical Expense Deduction (SMED) of $165 which can increase their benefit amount. SNAP clients can keep receipts, copay statements and other documentation of their medical expenses to qualify for this deduction. The medical mileage expense is self-reported and can be calculated based on the frequency and location of their medical and pharmaceutical visits. Individuals with medical expenses of more than $200 per month can have the total cost deducted to receive more than the standard $165 medical deduction.

For those whose only medical expense is mileage, this change is the difference between having to drive 60 miles per month to qualify for the standard deduction versus 175 miles previously.

For example, imagine a household consisting of one older adult or person with a disability. Their monthly income is $1200 from Social Security, they are responsible for utility payments, and they pay monthly rent of $700. Without claiming any medical deductions, this household would qualify for about $79 per month in SNAP benefits. However, if this household showed that they have more than $35 per month in medical expenses and received the Standard Medical Expense Deduction, their monthly benefit amount would be increased to about $153 per month. That’s $888 in additional food assistance benefits per year.

This change will improve access to healthy food for Coloradans struggling to make ends meet. We applaud the Colorado Department of Human Services and Board of Human Services for taking this important step to address hunger among people with disabilities and older Coloradans.

If you are interested in learning more about whether you are eligible for SNAP benefits, please call the Food Resource Hotline at 855-855-4626. You may also obtain an estimate of your monthly SNAP benefit amount at

-Anya Rose, Hunger Free Colorado & Jack Regenbogen, Colorado Center on Law and Policy

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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.