Oct 9, 2020

Recent articles

CCLP’s 2024 legislative wrap-up, part 2

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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.

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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.

Why we support Proposition 118 and oppose 116 and 117

Though the presidential and U.S. senate races are getting the most media attention and “air time,” Colorado voters will have dozens of choices to make during this election cycle. In total, there are 11 statewide ballot questions — in addition to numerous local measures — for Coloradans to consider.

As a 501(c3) organization, Colorado Center on Law and Policy (CCLP) does not endorse political candidates, but we do consider ballot measures that affect communities and families in their fight against poverty or advance the mission of racial equity. With that criteria in mind, CCLP took positions on three statewide initiatives on this year’s ballot.

All told, we support one proposition, but oppose two others. What follows is a brief summary of the measures as well as an explanation of our positions. We encourage you as a voter to refer to the Ballot Information Booklet (aka, the Blue Book), for more details on these and other items on the ballot.

SUPPORT Proposition 118- Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program
Among all nations, only the United States and Papua New Guinea, lack paid parental leave for all of its citizens. In the U.S., higher-paid employees are much more likely to get paid leave to tend for newborn or newly adopted children or a family health crisis.

Unfortunately, paid leave is far from a standard in this country, and there are many disparities based on jobs and income levels. Employees who aren’t protected by the 1993 Federal Family and Medical Leave Act (typically those who work for employers of fewer than 50  people)  or those who work less than a year with the same employer, have neither paid leave nor job protection. But even those covered by the FMLA often take little of the 12 weeks of leave available to them since they don’t get paid. Such inequities are among the reasons we have long supported the creation of a paid family leave program in Colorado.

For better and for worse, the pandemic has shed light on the plight of struggling families throughout Colorado and the nation as a whole. Proposition 118 would help more Coloradans take time off during a life event or a health crisis. The measure would create a statewide program that would give workers access to significant wage replacement that would cover up to 90 percent of the income for the lowest-paid employee in cases of major illness or injury of a worker or a member of their family.

Premiums to fund the benefit would be split evenly between employees and employers at total less than 1 percent of a worker’s salary. Small businesses with fewer than 10 employees would be exempted from paying the employer contribution. Self-employed workers could opt in, paying only the worker share. Employers with a comparable existing benefit would also be exempted from paying the premiums, which would begin to be collected in 2023 after the program is designed and set up.

If the measure is approved by voters, Coloradans could begin accessing the benefits in 2024.The measure is statutory, so can be tweaked by the legislature to address changes in federal law or program experience.

We expect our families to be there for us as we face great health crises. We need to align our governmental policies and benefits to allow all workers to meet these challenges without destroying their financial stability. That’s why we enthusiastically endorse Proposition 118 – a policy that’s badly needed, hard fought and long overdue.

OPPOSE 116- State Income Tax Rate Reduction
Because of the pandemic and its resulting job losses, the Colorado legislature was forced to cut over $3 billion from the state budget — about one fourth of the general fund. Services were cut and one-time federal relief was largely directed to K-12 and higher education. Other funds and “accounting maneuvers” provided short-term relief from deeper cuts.

During these times of unprecedented challenges and stress, people look to their government for help. Unfortunately, Proposition 116 would reduce the state income tax rate from 4.63 percent to 4.56 percent — resulting in more cuts in government programs by reducing the state budget by $357 million more in the next two years.

Where would that money go instead?  According to the State’s Ballot Information Booklet, more than half of the tax reduction would benefit taxpayers making over $500,000 a year – Colorado’s top 2 percent. Families earning the median income would receive less than $4 per month in tax cuts. Meanwhile, Coloradans on the low-income spectrum of the economy – like a couple earning under $25,000 per year– would see no benefit whatsoever.

We strongly oppose this dangerous and short-sighted measure that would give very little financial relief and inflict much harm on Coloradans who rely on state government programs to make ends meet.

OPPOSE 117 –Voter Approval for Certain New State Enterprises
We strongly oppose Proposition 117, one of the wonkier and more confusing issues on this year’s ballot. The measure requires that voters approve any new enterprise funds which collect more than $100 million over their first five years.

What are “Enterprise Funds”? Unique to Colorado and created by TABOR, enterprises are essentially businesses run by the government which receive less than 10 percent of their revenue from tax dollars. Enterprises are funded by corporate fees and provide benefits to Coloradans without increasing taxes.

CCLP has actively supported enterprise funds such as the Hospital Provider Fee, now called the Colorado Healthcare Affordability and Sustainability Enterprise (CHASE). This fee on hospitals collects almost $1 billion per year. The fees are used to draw down over $2 billion in federal funds for Colorado’s health care needs. Because of the enterprise, almost 450,000 Coloradans have health coverage through Medicaid and Child Health Plan Plus expansions without the use of state general funds.

In the past year, we actively advocated for Senate Bill 215 (the Colorado Health Insurance Affordability Fund), which redirected expiring federal fees assessed on health insurance for state purposes. These collected fees will be used to continue Colorado’s Reinsurance program, which reduces insurance premiums by paying for some of insurance companies’ most expensive claims.

Fees will also be used to ensure that people who get federal subsidies through the state exchange, Connect for Health, continue to have affordable choices, and that families whose employer-based coverage is prohibitively expensive can get financial help. Last, working Coloradans who can’t access subsidies due to immigration status will have access to lower-cost coverage. Reducing health insurance costs extends coverage to the individuals affected, and helps all of us by making our schools, communities and workplaces healthier.

Enterprise Funds taps the creativity and resolve of Colorado legislators – within the bounds set by TABOR – to address community needs. Our legislators have listened to constituents’ call for affordable health care and their ability to provide solutions should not be derailed by monied interests.

Closing thoughts
As you review your lengthy ballot in the coming weeks, you carry the weight of being an informed voter. Act not only on behalf of yourself and your family, but in the interests of all Colorado communities that live and work here.

Regardless of where you come out on these and other important issues, we encourage you to vote as if the future of Colorado is at stake – because it is in many respects.

-By Chaer Robert and CCLP staff

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.