Mar 11, 2022

Charles serves as CCLP's Income and Housing Policy Director using data and research to support our efforts to stand with diverse communities across Colorado in the fight against poverty. Staff page ›

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Talent Equity Agenda is a roadmap to promote equity in Colorado’s top jobs

by | Mar 11, 2022

Each year, the Colorado Department of Labor, the Colorado Department of Higher Education, the Colorado Department of Education, and the Colorado Workforce Development Council release a Talent Pipeline report that identifies areas of opportunity and demand in Colorado’s labor market and highlights outcomes of certain statewide workforce development programs. The report also identifies occupations in Colorado that it considers to be “top jobs,” or those that meet three criteria: a projected high number of net annual openings (greater than 40); an above average projected growth rate over the next 10 years (greater than 10%); and an hourly wage above $31.19 per hour for Tier 1 top jobs or above $16.35 for Tier 2 top jobs. Based on these factors, the report identifies 77 top jobs at Tier 1 and 122 top jobs at Tier 2 in Colorado for 2021.

Not only will our state need more workers to fill these occupations over the next ten years, they are also jobs that pay a wage that could support a family of three (one working adult, one non-working adult, and one child) if Tier 1 or a single individual if Tier 2 according to the Talent Pipeline report.[i] In other words, these are jobs that allow Colorado’s workforce to support themselves and their families.

The report identifies these occupations in order to help job seekers understand the skills and qualifications they will need to find a job that is well paying and is in demand among employers. We can also use these top jobs to understand who in Colorado currently works in one. Using the most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau, we estimate that 14.9% of employed Coloradans worked in a Tier 1 top job, while 14.6% worked in a Tier 2 top job in 2019.[ii] In this blog post, we will dive deeper into the racial and ethnic distribution of Coloradans across different occupations, including those that fall into Tier 1 or Tier 2 top job categories.

We believe this data shows that Colorado must focus on creating equitable education and workforce development systems, particularly as we contemplate how best to use federal recovery dollars that have flowed into the state due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Colorado Workforce Development Council has already identified a number of areas where it can support equity in its Talent Equity Agenda. As we show in our latest issue brief, the racial and ethnic distribution of Coloradans is not equal. White Coloradans are disproportionately more likely to hold a Tier 1 top job than other racial and ethnic groups in the state. Implementing and building on the recommendations in the Talent Equity Agenda will be essential to ensure that any Coloradan, regardless of their race or ethnicity, is able to pursue and obtain the job they desire.

Read CCLP’s full Issue Brief on Race Equity in Colorado’s Talent Pipeline in our resources library.

[i] McKennie, Caitlin. 2021 Colorado Talent Pipeline Report. Colorado Workforce Development Council (2021). Accessed from on 8 February 2022.

[ii] Colorado Center on Law and Policy analysis of 2014-2019 5-Year American Community Survey microdata obtained from IPUMS USA: Version 11.0. IPUMS USA, University of Minnesota,

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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.