Oct 19, 2016

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Raising the wage: Good for business and Colorado

by | Oct 19, 2016

In 2006, opponents warned that jobs would be lost and the state’s economy would suffer if voters approved a ballot initiative to raise Colorado’s minimum wage from $5.15 to $6.85. But the sky did not fall. In fact, in the two years after Coloradans approved the measure, the economy generated more than 3,000 new small businesses which created over 15,000 new jobs.

Colorado voters should keep those numbers in mind when considering Amendment 70, a ballot initiative in the upcoming election that will gradually raise the minimum wage from $8.31 an hour to $12 an hour by 2020. As a coalition partner in the Colorado Families for a Fair Wage campaign, CCLP strongly supports Amendment 70.

Despite renewed claims from opponents who say that raising the wage is bad for small business, evidence and recent history suggests that Amendment 70 would provide a boost for small businesses in the state. An independent study by the University of Denver concluded that Amendment 70 will increase incomes of 20 percent of Colorado families and collectively increasing wages up to$700 million, while growing the state‘s gross domestic product (or GDP) by $400 million a year.

According to a survey conducted by the Small Business Majority, a national small-business advocacy organization, 60 percent of small-business owners supported raising the wage. So far, nearly 200 business owners across Colorado have endorsed Amendment 70. According to data from Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, the vast majority of small businesses (those with few than 50 employees) already pay average wages above $12 an hour.

Savvy small-business owners also know that offering a living wage can positively impact their bottom line: Higher wages motivate workers to work harder, attract more capable workers, and decrease turnover.

“The anticipated hit to the bottom line never happened,” said Judy Amabile, owner of Polar Bottle, who recently raised starting pay at her  Boulder-based insulated bottle manufacturer to $12 an hour. “Our employees were more productive. Turnover decreased dramatically. People were able to get their cars fixed. They had better child care options. They valued their jobs more. Our per-unit labor costs actually went down.”

Amendment 70 would also put more money in the pockets of customers – stimulating consumer spending and economic growth. According to CCLP’s Self Sufficiency Standard, there isn’t a single county in the state where a parent could support even one child while working a minimum-wage job without relying on public assistance. Raising the wage to $12 an hour would let more of these families spend their hard-earned wages locally while increasing consumer demand (one of small-business owners’ primary concerns).

Those are just a few reasons why voters should get behind this pro-business, pro-Coloradan initiative.

– Jesus Loayza

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.