Jun 13, 2016

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.

Tool measures income needs of older Coloradans

by | Jun 13, 2016

The Colorado Center on Law and Policy largely focuses its advocacy efforts on adults in their working years. But because of the increasingly important and varied roles older adults play in families, and the importance of saving money with retirement in mind, it is critical to include the challenges facing older Coloradans under the economic-security “umbrella.”

The road to self-sufficiency and economic security should be viewed as a continuum that doesn’t end at age 65. An important part of reducing poverty is passing assets – like a home, for example – down from parent to child. Because children’s economic wellbeing is intrinsically linked to their parents’, it is critical that we take an intergenerational approach to alleviating poverty. That means implementing public policy that will allow people to reach economic security in their prime working years, save money with the aim of being able to comfortably retire, and receive the care and services they need in their advanced age.

Closing the gap between senior incomes and economic security requires preservation and increase of seniors’ incomes from sources such as Social Security, pensions and employment. Where security gaps persist or seniors’ future ability to retire is under threat, CCLP and its partners in recent years advocated for policies that would expand access to older worker training and employment programs, food assistance, prescription medication assistance, home- and community-based long-term care, senior housing and other public assistance programs that allow seniors to remain independent and age in their own homes and communities.

To that end, CCLP is excited to release the Elder Economic Security Standard Index for Colorado 2015. This tool can be used to measure the income retired older adults need to meet their basic needs. The Elder Index defines basic needs as those essential to health and safety — housing, food, transportation, and health care — and miscellaneous personal and household needs.  It provides an accurate measure of the cost of living for people over 65 in all Colorado counties. Seniors with incomes below the local Elder Index are more likely to make difficult spending choices, to go without one or more basic need, and to have trouble remaining in their homes as they age and/or their health declines.

Too many older adults experience financial instability. One fourth of retired adults live on social security alone, allowing them to subsist only slightly above the federal poverty level (FPL). In Colorado, seniors’ basic income needs far exceed the FPL and vary greatly — between $17,268 and $52,776 per year depending on location and housing type — according to the report.

In order to have financial stability in later years, it is critical to begin saving during prime working years.

According to AARP, 49 percent of adults age 46-65 say that they are struggling to save for retirement. Lack of retirement savings can lead to financial instability, and can also be a significant burden on family members. The Pew Research Center reported that 75 percent of adults in the U.S. believe we have a responsibility to provide financially for aging parents if they need help.

Nearly 30 million American households are providing some form of support – financial or with day-to-day care – to an aging adult, and this number is expected to grow dramatically over the next two decades. While this is a positive trend in many ways, it can take a significant toll on family finances. The MetLife Mature Market Institute found that financial impact cost family caregivers an average of $566,443 over the course of care.

On the other hand, it is important to acknowledge the role that seniors play as the financial backbone of many families. Because of stagnant wages and skyrocketing living costs, adult children are increasingly relying on parents for financial support.  A study by Merrill Lynch used the term “perpetual parenthood” to describe this dynamic.

While parents of adult children and grandparents may be willing to help out financially, it can set a dangerous precedent for their own economic security. For most adults approaching retirement age, this one-time and/or ongoing financial assistance is unanticipated, and may be drawn from existing savings rather than steady income streams. If an older adult dips into their retirement savings, they may have no opportunity to recoup these expenses. According to a survey by AARP, 67 percent of baby boomers say they would feel obligated to financially support their adult children if asked and 57 percent reported that they would be willing to do so even if it threatened their comfort and security in retirement.

Older adults play increasingly diverse roles in families. With the rise of nontraditional family structures, grandparents often step in to fill gaps in caring for children. Economic insecurity as a result of the Great Recession also increased the prevalence of multigenerational households. Nationwide, 7.8 million children live with a grandparent, and 2.6 million live in homes where a grandparent is the primary caregiver. Of households where a grandparent is present, nearly 1 in 5 is in poverty.

The role of grandparents can be critical in the attainment of self-sufficiency of non-retirement age parents. Recruiting grandparents as caregivers is one of the most common workarounds for families living on the edge of self-sufficiency. A single mom with an infant and a preschooler living in Larimer County, for example, can expect to spend around $1,975 on childcare per month. That is more than a third of her budget. If her parents are able to care for the children, mom is free to work more productively without worrying about childcare options, dedicate money saved to other things, and focus on savings or getting more skills training – all of which will better her self-sufficiency.

Protecting and expanding seniors’ income sources and strengthening the services and care available to older adults so they can live and age comfortably is crucial to supporting the financial stability not only of retirees, but also their adult children and young grandchildren.

By viewing the journey to self-sufficiency as a continuum, we take a more effective, holistic approach to reducing poverty. We hope that the Elder Index will help to guide policy change by identifying the most significant living costs for elders in Colorado, and calling attention to the groups struggling most to make ends meet.

 

  • Aubrey Hasvold

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.