Investing in our communities and in justice and dignity for all

Civil legal representation helps Coloradans escape domestic violence, protect their families, find work and housing, keep veterans’ benefits, and survive and thrive across Colorado.

Investing in our communities and in justice and dignity for all

Civil legal representation helps Coloradans escape domestic violence, protect their families, find work and housing, keep veterans’ benefits, and survive and thrive across Colorado.

Meeting Coloradans’ basic needs

The proposed Equal Justice Fund would support civil legal aid organizations helping Coloradans with legal problems that threaten basic necessities, including those involving food, shelter, utilities, and necessary medical care, and helps those facing domestic violence. Legal aid organizations serve rural, urban, and suburban low-income and vulnerable Coloradans in every part of our state. The funds would be generated from a small increase to civil court filing fees.

We also propose raising the income level at which fees are waived, so the slight increase would not hurt low-income Coloradans.

How much would this help legal aid organizations?

This fee would create an average annual funding stream of five million dollars, about five percent of the estimated annual state shortfall of $95 million. 92% percent will go to qualified civil legal aid providers, and up to eight percent will go to the Colorado Access to Justice Commission.

Why do we need an equal justice fund?

Coloradans face a complex and expensive civil legal system. Unlike in criminal cases, they have no right to an attorney for life-altering civil legal matters like if they may lose their children or their housing, so low-income Coloradans must rely on legal aid organizations to help, or represent themselves, which lowers their chance for justice and slows down court processes. For particularly vulnerable people, such as older adults, people with disabilities, people with mental health challenges, and those with limited English proficiency, these barriers can destabilize their lives and make justice inaccessible. Other western states like Wyoming, New Mexico, and Nevada invest in legal aid at a much higher level than Colorado per capita.

The impact

Funding for justice services makes a difference. Even with limited resources, Colorado’s legal aid organizations have been remarkably effective in developing tools and services to address civil legal needs. And we know that investing in legal aid helps the whole state: for every dollar invested in Colorado Legal Services in 2022, the state of Colorado and Colorado communities received an estimated $6.19 in both immediate and long-term financial benefits. This is a 600% social return on investment in addition to the dignity and justice this work provides people in our communities.

 

The special report from Colorado’s Access to Justice Commission

A newly released report from the Commission reveals Colorado ranks 10th among 14 western states in state funding for legal aid.

Read the special report here  

 

Supporting organizations

Colorado Legal Services

Community Economic Defense Project (CEDP)

Colorado Access to Justice Commission

Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network (RMIAN)

Colorado Center on Law and Policy (CCLP)

ACLU of Colorado
Alpine Legal Services
Bridge to Justice
City and County of Boulder
Colorado Blueprint to End Hunger
Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition (CCDC)
Disability Law Colorado
SEIU Local 105
Spring Institute

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.