Mar 13, 2019

Recent articles

CCLP testifies in support of Clean Slate updates

Bethany Pray, CCLP’s Chief Legal and Policy Officer, provided testimony in support of House Bill 24-1133, Criminal Record Sealing & Expungement Changes. CCLP is in support of HB24-1133, as it is one of our priority bills.

CCLP testifies in support of TANF grant rule change

CCLP's Emeritus Advisor, Chaer Robert, provided written testimony in support of the CDHS rule on the COLA increase for TANF recipients. If the rule is adopted, the cost of living increase would go into effect on July 1, 2024.

Small investments could generate big returns for Colorado workers

by | Mar 13, 2019

What did you need to prepare for your last job interview, or to avoid an emergency that might make you miss a day at work? An Uber ride? A suit and tie? Babysitting? For some Colorado workers, these seemingly minor considerations can be daunting barriers to securing or maintaining employment.

According to the latest figures from the U.S. Census, more than 429,000 – or 8 percent of the state’s working-age households — live under the Federal Poverty Level (FPL).

The FPL translates to $16,910 a year for a family of two, and $4,320 more for each additional member of the household. Most Coloradans living under the FPL are working in jobs that pay insufficient part-time and/or seasonal wages. Many are getting training for new careers or job opportunities that could help them become more self-sufficient. For residents living below the FPL, it’s easy to see that a lack of money in the bank can turn a small but essential need — such as buying a $50 construction belt or spending $250 to fix a punctured tire — into an emergency that puts a job at risk. Sadly, lack of access to emergency cash assistance prevents many Coloradans from getting or keeping employment.

Now, imagine if economically disadvantaged Coloradans could rapidly obtain funds to cover the costs of these small but un-affordable expenses, allowing them to secure and keep a job and collect a steady paycheck. Investing just a small amount of money into these workers could improve their long-term employ-ability and economic stability.

To make this vision a reality, the Colorado Skills to Compete Coalition (coordinated by Colorado Center on Law and Policy) has developed House Bill 1107, commonly known as the “Emergency Employment Support Services Bill.” The legislation is the result of years of stakeholder meetings with more than 70 workforce centers, employment-focused nonprofits, and other public agencies in Colorado. Administrators from the Colorado Department of Labor & Employment (CDLE) and the Department of Human Services (CDHS) have also been involved in discussions.

Sponsored by Rep. James Coleman and Sens. Rhonda Fields and Kevin Priola, HB 1107 would establish a three-year pilot program that would provide funds to community-based organizations that work with people who are trying to get into the workforce or improve their skills to get a better paying job. These organizations would be able to help people with unexpected expenses that could derail their job training or employment prospects. Participating organizations will be able to address the need of the beneficiary quickly if the request meets the criteria. The fund would be administered by CDLE, but disbursed by community organizations and public agencies.

For $1 million a year for three years, this innovative pilot project would be an investment to help at least 2,000 Coloradans a year secure or retain a job. Eligible recipients must have income at or below 100 percent of the FPL, and be currently working with a community organization, workforce center or other public agency on an employment goal. Skills2Compete hopes that a successful pilot will allow the program to be expanded and serve even more Coloradans in years to come.

Although the bill’s direct focus is on supporting workers, it would benefit businesses as well. Employers such as hotels, restaurants, cleaning companies and small businesses, often struggle with high employee turnover due to emergencies that occur in the lives of new workers. HB 1107 can help to stabilize the workforce of a wide array of employers.

The bill passed with bipartisan support 7-3 on Jan. 30 out of the House Business Affairs & Labor Committee. It has since moved on to House Appropriations, where the committee will determine how much funding to appropriate to the program.

A statewide source of employment support services would help more Coloradans participate in  the state’s economic boom and transition into more stable career opportunities, while helping businesses attract and retain a talented workforce in the long-term. Forging a path to self-sufficiency for these Coloradans would benefit their families and Colorado businesses as those people become more active participants in the state’s economy.

You can support HB 1107 by contacting Chaer Robert at crobert@copolicy.org

-By Duranya Freeman

Recent articles

CCLP testifies in support of Clean Slate updates

Bethany Pray, CCLP’s Chief Legal and Policy Officer, provided testimony in support of House Bill 24-1133, Criminal Record Sealing & Expungement Changes. CCLP is in support of HB24-1133, as it is one of our priority bills.

CCLP testifies in support of TANF grant rule change

CCLP's Emeritus Advisor, Chaer Robert, provided written testimony in support of the CDHS rule on the COLA increase for TANF recipients. If the rule is adopted, the cost of living increase would go into effect on July 1, 2024.

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.