Nov 10, 2016

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Statement on the 2016 election results

by | Nov 10, 2016

Claire Levy, Executive Director of the Colorado Center on Law and Policy, issued the following statement about the 2016 election results:

The 2016 election generated both good news and bad news for the low-income families who the Colorado Center on Law and Policy serves.

First, the good news: We are delighted and thankful that Colorado voters resoundingly approved Amendment 70, the ballot initiative that will incrementally raise the minimum wage from a dismal $8.31 an hour to $12 by 2020. When Amendment 70 is fully implemented, nearly 480,000 hardworking Coloradans will get a much-needed boost in earnings.

CCLP worked hard on the Executive Committee of the Colorado Families for a Fair Wage campaign to build a factual case for raising the minimum wage. Our Colorado Self-Sufficiency Standard 2015 showed that the minimum wage is insufficient to support families anywhere in the state.  In a testament to the voters’ understanding of the struggles of hard-working Coloradans, they voted to strengthen economic security and put more families on a path to self-sufficiency. Approval of Amendment 70 will be a win for all of Colorado and make a difference for hundreds of thousands of Colorado families.

Amendment 70’s success shows the importance of having avenues to effect change when legislators will not or cannot act. In 2015, CCLP supported a bill to refer a minimum wage increase to the voters, which did not pass. By organizing the ballot initiative, gathering signatures and informing the electorate about the need to raise the minimum wage, the campaign demonstrated that voters will take action to improve the lives of their fellow Coloradans even when their elected representatives will not.

Unfortunately, our “bad news” has diminished that ability. CCLP is disappointed that Colorado voters approved Amendment 71, the so-called “raise-the-bar” initiative which will make it more difficult to amend the state’s constitution. CCLP opposed Amendment 71 because the measure’s restrictions created unreasonable barriers to effecting change that is needed to address Colorado’s fiscal straight-jacket.

Given the state’s limited ability to fund Medicaid and other services for low-income Coloradans at a level that’s even close to adequate, CCLP is concerned that the criteria outlined in Amendment 71 will make any changes to the amendment known as the Taxpayers Bill of Rights (or TABOR) nearly impossible. It could further cement the fiscal constraints that hurt low-income families and limit our ability to improve education and the health and well-being of all Coloradans.

The national campaign gave voice to the economic anxiety experienced by people across the country. While there was disagreement about the cause and the remedy, the voters appeared to be unified in demanding that their elected representatives make the economy fairer and create opportunities for everyone to achieve a middle-class lifestyle. We embrace the challenge of creating widespread prosperity and an economy that works for everyone.

As a nonpartisan organization, CCLP will continue to work across the aisle in the state Capitol, with the governor’s office and stakeholders to protect and improve human service programs like Medicaid, SNAP, child care assistance as well as policies that can help low-income Coloradans forge pathways from poverty.

– Claire Levy

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.