Feb 15, 2019

An expert in policy advocacy and coalition building, Chaer has dedicated her career to helping people meet their basic needs and expanding economic opportunity. She serves on the executive committee of the All Families Deserve a Chance (AFDC) coalition. Staff page ›

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.

Summit promotes skills for good jobs

by | Feb 15, 2019

Only one week after the Federal government reopened, I headed to Washington, D.C. for the National Skills Coalition Skills Summit. Despite the partisanship of our Congress and Administration, there is stunning bipartisan support for increasing investment in skills and technical training. The Perkins Career and Technical Education Act re-authorization passed the U.S. Senate unanimously. Perkins provides $1.2 billion in funding for career and technical training in both high school and college.

Co-sponsors Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-Penn.) and Rep. Raja Krishnamoorti (D-Ill.) addressed the 450 summit attendees from around the country. One big theme was removing the stigma from career and technical training — working with ours hands, not just our minds — which can offer good-paying jobs without incurring much debt.

National Skills released a poll by Anzalone, Liszt and Grove among 1,000 likely U.S. voters which showed 93 percent support of “increasing investment in skills and technical training,” the most popular of eight tested economic proposals. Meanwhile, 60 percent of respondents supported free tuition for a four-year public college for anyone who wants it and 66 percent supported free tuition for community colleges for anyone who wants it.

With only one-third of Americans having a four-year college degree, skills training was likely seen as a more universal need. Even when phrased as increased government spending, there is support by 85 percent of respondents for funding more skills and technical training , including 80 percent of Republicans and 90 percent of Democrats. Voters support skills training to prepare for the future and maintain economic competitiveness.

Congress is expected to take up re-authorization of the Higher Education Act soon. It was last reauthorized in 2006. Higher education traditionally was designed for students just graduating high school who immediately continue pursuing a four-year degree with support from their family. Today, however, 70 percent of college student are “non-traditional” adults who have been in the workforce, who are older, and are often supporting themselves and their families.

These students are more often interested in shorter-term credentials that position them for employment or a better paying job. Modernizing higher education includes redesigning Pell Grants to include aid for shorter-term credentials that are in demand by employers. Indeed, adults without family support may have their own families to support. They may need more support services such as child care, transportation, food assistance, for themselves and their families to be able to complete a credential or degree in a timely manner.

Constant retraining and lifelong learning are essential to prepare people for the work of the future. Without those concepts, the U.S. could easily fracture into a wealthy, educated class and a service-industries support class. Businesses do finance the education of their employees on a massive scale ($650 billion per year) but 85 percent of employer investment is limited to employees in the middle and top rungs of the corporate latter, and most of those individuals already have some college education.

Due to the labor shortage, some employers are starting to invest in “up-skilling” current employees with the skills they need to master their current job and to move ahead. Paid work-based learning and apprenticeships could offer a path for those who want to learn but cannot afford to stop working to go to school. Most entry-level workers and unemployed workers have fewer opportunities to advance their skills. Federal workforce program funding has drop by 40 percent over the last 15 years.

National Skills Coalition’s Skills for Good Jobs Agenda 2019 outlines 10 steps federal policymakers can take this year to expand access to all workers for opportunities to gain skills and move ahead. Taken as a package they promote an equity agenda of covering young and older workers, parents on Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), those receiving SNAP food assistance, those with significant disabilities, adults who are gaining fundamental reading and math skills along with career skills, and DREAMERS and DACA youth.

Our current workforce needs exceed the number of young people just graduating high school. A pool of untapped talent is outside today’s labor force or treading water financially in jobs without view of a path to upward mobility. They can help employers meet their workforce needs, if employers, government, schools and nonprofit workforce programs work together.

-By Chaer Robert

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.