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Date added

December 14, 2012

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Workforce development programs threatened by sequestration

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If the fiscal cliff discussions fail, the federal budget cuts that will occur as a result of the process known as sequestration could cause a reduction in workforce development services for thousands of Coloradans.
Federal budget cuts that restrict the ability of state and county agencies to provide services will have cumulative adverse effects on Colorado households struggling to make ends meet. Many of the vulnerable services that are in the federal funding category known collectively as non-defense discretionary spending are investments in the working poor and the most vulnerable populations in Colorado. This paper focuses on cuts to key employment and training programs for Colorado workers that could mean the loss of $10.3 million to the state and create an economic barrier for the 43,000 Coloradans who would not be served in 2013.
Workforce Investment: A Critical Strategy for Economic Security, Community Development and State Competitiveness
Investing in workforce development programs increases the likelihood that currently unemployed and underemployed Colorado workers will have access to required transitional education and training programs. A July 2012  brief by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, Report to the President on Capturing Domestic Competitive Advantage in Advanced Manufacturinglists the following recommendations for keeping the nation globally competitive through the creation of a skilled workforce:

  • Tap the talent pool of returning veterans.
  • Develop partnerships to provide skills certifications and accreditation.
  • Enhance advanced manufacturing university programs.

The National Skills Coalition brings together community-based training organizations, community colleges, unions, business leaders, local officials, and research organizations to advocate for public policies that invest in the skills of America’s workers. The coalition recently published data that illustrates the impact of potential cuts on workforce development. Table 1 highlights the cuts to Colorado that are outlined in that report.

Potential cuts from sequestration to Colorado workforce development programs


FY 2012 Funding

Est. cuts in 2013 from sequester

Fewer people served

Workforce Investment Act




Career and Technical Ed




Adult Basic Education




Vocational Rehabilitation




Wagner-Peyser Employment








Colorado’s ability to remain competitive depends, at least in part, on the skills of its workforce. The economic security of Colorado workers and their families depends, at least in part, on the opportunity to access the training and skills needed for a changing economy. Given that Colorado has made, and continues to make, investments in postsecondary education and workforce training, the threat  of sequestration is significant.
Conclusion: Another Way

An alternative policy to automatic cuts to employment initiatives that stabilize the middle class, while offering economic mobility for the working poor, is a policy that supports every Coloradan having access to at least two years of education or training past high school – leading to a vocational credential, industry certification, associate’s degree, or the stepping stone first two years of college. This is not a universal solution for the many barriers struggling workers and their families face. Nor is this the only investment that should be considered in budget negotiations – vulnerable individuals and families require a continuum of services currently scheduled for reduced funding. This is one strategy that can be used to advance Colorado’s economic recovery. The return on this investment would be intergenerational, sustainable and include advantages at every level of economic development:

• The state becomes more competitive.

• Employers gain the skilled workforce they desire.

• Communities are enhanced.

• Families increase their opportunities for economic security.

The Colorado Center on Law and Policy is the state affiliate for the National Skills to Compete Coalition. To join the cyberspace efforts urging policymakers to put people before politics, click here to read the NDD letter to Congress. 


Date added

December 14, 2012

Resource type

Filed under


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.