Dec 26, 2017

Recent articles

CCLP’s 2024 legislative wrap-up, part 2

CCLP's 2024 legislative wrap-up focused on expanding access to justice, removing administrative burden, supporting progressive tax and wage policies, preserving affordable communities, and reducing health care costs. Part 2/2.

CCLP’s 2024 legislative wrap-up, part 1

CCLP's 2024 legislative wrap-up focused on expanding access to justice, removing administrative burden, supporting progressive tax and wage policies, preserving affordable communities, and reducing health care costs.

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.

Thoughts on 2017 and the road ahead

by | Dec 26, 2017

Two-thousand-seventeen has been a rough year.

The United States of America has had to reckon with some very ugly strains within our society, which became emboldened by the tone and the result of the 2016 presidential election. While Colorado Center on Law and Policy has worked hard to protect vital resources and programs for people who need help, we have also had to take aim at the forces animating efforts to dismantle these programs.  So as we fight for economic justice and health equity, we also fight the notion that the vast wealth of this country should not be used to make sure that all of us have a chance to succeed.

I write this message with a mixture of outrage and sorrow.  I am outraged at the audacity of the proposals pushed by the President and Congress – reducing nutritional assistance, imposing punitive work requirements, exposing consumers to predatory financial practices, redistributing wealth upward, taking away health care, fouling our air and water with pollution, and generally subjecting people to the ravages of unregulated markets and denying the role systemic barriers founded on racism have played in separating the haves from the have-nots.  I am sorrowful that this is the direction this country has taken in what seems like the blink of an eye, but in what is more accurately the culmination of many years of inculcating a view of the economy that says taxes and public investment are a denial of economic freedom and that reflects a view of society that divides people into “takers” and “makers.”

Supreme Court justice Oliver Wendell Holmes famously said, “Taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society.”  To that I would only add that those taxes must fall fairly on those who can afford to pay and on whom much has been bestowed.  People need to reembrace the sentiment that underlies that thought.

But, enough about the past. What about the future? As the Executive Director of Colorado Center on Law and Policy, I am determined to do what we can to support the concept of a shared future. CCLP was founded 20 years ago to do policy and legal advocacy on behalf of people in poverty whose collective voices had been silenced by Congress through restrictions on programs funded by Legal Services Corporation.  We dig deep into the weeds of complex regulations.  We try to change the trajectories of lives that have been circumscribed by circumstances such as a criminal conviction or an eviction.  Our attorneys represent people in individual cases in which systemic problems with the administration of public programs can be exposed so they and others can receive services that are vital to their health and safety.

Along with that advocacy, we recognize that we need to change the vocabulary and common misunderstanding about how the economy works.  We cannot do that work alone.  So CCLP is joining with other organizations that are also dedicated to an inclusive economy to develop tools to help change the way the public thinks about the economy, public services, and the benefits of investing in human capital.

When we ask a legislator to help us increase investment in affordable housing, the legislator and her colleagues need to understand not just why public investment is necessary but why it is to the benefit of all of us that people have a safe and affordable home. When we ask for an increase in the paltry cash assistance Colorado provides to people with disabilities who are unable to work, we want policymakers to see that assistance as a reflection of the basic decency of our society. If people recognized that the root of so much struggle families face is not lack of effort or poor choices, but is the failure of many employers to pay a wage that allows people to meet their basic needs, we could have a genuine discussion about how to increase wages, supplement that income, or reduce the cost of housing, health care and other essentials.

With those thoughts in mind, CCLP will return to work in the New Year focused on achieving results.  Those results will include real changes in policy that dismantle or ameliorate barriers to opportunity. They will also include giving life to the notion that was expressed so long ago by Mahatma Ghandi that society’s greatness is measured by how it treats its most vulnerable.

-By Claire Levy

Recent articles

CCLP’s 2024 legislative wrap-up, part 2

CCLP's 2024 legislative wrap-up focused on expanding access to justice, removing administrative burden, supporting progressive tax and wage policies, preserving affordable communities, and reducing health care costs. Part 2/2.

CCLP’s 2024 legislative wrap-up, part 1

CCLP's 2024 legislative wrap-up focused on expanding access to justice, removing administrative burden, supporting progressive tax and wage policies, preserving affordable communities, and reducing health care costs.

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.

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.