Aug 26, 2016

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Raising the Wage is fair and smart

by | Aug 26, 2016

Nearly 480,000 hardworking Coloradans would get a much-needed boost in earnings if Colorado voters approve a November ballot measure that raises the state’s minimum wage to $12 by 2020. Along with strengthening the financial security of many Colorado families, the measure would also spur economic growth and increase consumer spending.

As a coalition partner in the Colorado Families for a Fair Wage campaign, the Colorado Center on Law and Policy strongly believes this important ballot measure is both fair and smart. Here are a few reasons why:

Raising the minimum wage is fair
Currently, minimum wage workers earn $8.31 an hour — or less than $300 a week.Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, a full-time, minimum-wage job kept a family of two above the poverty line. That is no longer true today.

According to CCLP’s Self-Sufficiency Standard for Colorado, a single adult working a full-time, minimum-wage job would fall short of his or her basic needs in most parts of the state. Furthermore, there is not a single county in Colorado where a parent could support even one child while working a minimum-wage job without relying on public assistance. The same holds true of families with two working adults and two or more children.

Colorado workers who would receive a raise from the ballot measure don’t fit common perceptions of low-wage workers. Many have the mistaken impression that minimum-wage workers are teenagers working their first job. However, the vast majority of minimum-wage earners (86 percent) are over the age of 20; about one-third are at least 40; nearly 30 percent have children; just over half work full-time and half have attended some college or have a college degree.

Raising the minimum wage is smart
The impact of reasonable, phased-in minimum wage on employment and prices has been studied extensively. The best available research has consistently shown that raising the minimum wage has little or no negative effect on employment and very little impact on prices. In fact, raising the earnings of low-wage workers actually improves job retention (a win for employers) and spurs economic growth (also a win for employers) because low- and middle-wage earners are more likely to spend their pay increases at local businesses.

But we don’t have to rely on the data from the 26 states and 29 cities across the country that raised their minimum wage in recent years to understand the impact on jobs. Colorado has been down this road before —successfully. In 2006, Colorado increased the statewide minimum wage from $5.15 to $6.85 — a 33 percent increase over one year. Between 2006 and 2008, Colorado added over 70,000 jobs to the statewide economy. (See the chart to visualize this economic trajectory). Also, both urban and rural areas saw an increase in employment following the 2006 wage increase.

The proposal on the November ballot calls for a less than 10 percent average annual increase in the minimum wage until it reaches $12 in 2020 – making it an incremental increase that will ultimately help workers and businesses alike.

We need an economy that works for everyone. About 600,000 Coloradans, just over one-quarter of the labor force, earn less than $12 an hour. Meanwhile, the lowest-wage workers in the state — those at the frontlines of our economy —earn 5 percent less today than they earned in 2000, despite the ever- increasing cost of living in this state.

Very simply, raising the minimum wage makes good on the promise of work as a pathway out of poverty and will spur economic growth.

CCLP wholeheartedly supports this ballot measure and is proud to be an integral partner in the Colorado Families for a Fair Wage campaign.

In the weeks and months leading to the November election, we will continue to build the strong factual case for raising the wage and encouraging Coloradans to vote yes for Colorado’s future.

– By Michelle Webster

Recent articles


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.