During this year’s legislative session, CCLP’s Family Economic Security program will focus on expanding job opportunities and training for all Coloradans, renewing the Colorado Child Tax Credit for low-income workers, encouraging the development of more affordable housing units throughout the state and extending the notification period so that tenants without leases have enough time to relocate from their homes when their landlords order them to leave their residences or raise their rent.
We expect this year’s session to strike some familiar themes since leadership in the House and the Senate is still divided along party lines. As always, the state’s constitutional budgetary constraints will factor heavily into lawmakers’ decisions. However, the “wild card” this session seems to be how policy changes in Washington will affect Colorado. To that point, CCLP will collaborate with national partners to protect the interests of low-income Coloradans in federal policy discussions.Since Congress may delegate additional authority to states regarding critical programs and services, we are prepared to work this year with partner organizations to ensure that decision-makers in Colorado make choices that are in the best interests of struggling families throughout the state.
Below is CCLP’s legislative agenda for 2017:
Renew the Colorado Child Care Tax Credit for low-income workers
In 2014, CCLP championed a successful bill to introduce a child-care tax credit for workers earning less than $25,000 a year. Our bill established an alternative calculation method for those who did not qualify for child-care tax credits because they earned too little to owe federal income tax. Since the passage of the bill, over 32,000 families have claimed the credit, providing a total of $4.9 million to help defray the cost of child care for low-income working parents. The current law expires on Jan. 1, 2018, so we will fight for renewal of this important tax credit.
Society expects people to work, pay restitution and support their families after they’ve been incarcerated. Unfortunately, many Coloradans with criminal records experience unemployment, food insecurity and housing instability — fueling poverty and recidivism rates.
To address this problem, CCLP is again running legislation to address preliminary barriers to employment by prohibiting most employers from asking about past criminal records on preliminary job applications. The bill has garnered support from a diverse coalition that includes 45 different nonprofits, faith-based organizations, labor groups and businesses.
Extend notice periods for tenants without leases
In Colorado, a tenant who is renting without a lease is only assured seven-days of notice before being required to vacate their home or pay higher rent. Similarly, tenants are only required to give seven days of notification to landlords before ending their tenancy.
Only two other states have notice periods this short. The current notification period presents an extreme challenge for tenants in Colorado’s tight housing market. For families with children, older adults and people with disabilities, finding new housing can be nearly impossible in a short period of time. CCLP will run a bill to extend the notification period from seven to 28 days. This bill would not change the three-day eviction process for non-payment of rent or non-compliance with a lease. It also would not apply in cases when there is a lease.
Transparent consumer information for students of for-profit schools and training programs
By 2020, 74 percent of all jobs in Colorado are projected to require some level of post-secondary training. Analysts estimate that Colorado will need to increase post-secondary credentials by 2 percent annually to meet workforce needs in the future. For-profit occupational schools are an important component of post-secondary education. However, these programs tend to be more expensive than community colleges, are often unlikely to lead to gainful employment and frequently result in high debt loads and student-loan defaults. Nationally, the surge in student loan defaults in the last decade was largely concentrated among relatively older, low-income students who attended for-profit colleges.
Given this context, it’s important that students and their families have the best information available so they can make informed decisions about what types of training to pursue and what programs will prepare them for gainful employment. The Skills2Compete Colorado Coalition, led by CCLP, will run legislation requiring prospective students to receive more information about educational outcomes, such as completion rates, total costs, estimated debt load and average starting salaries for students. The legislation will also call for the state to develop comparative website to help students make informed decisions when investing in a secondary education.
Child care for education and training
Nationally, 26 percent of post-secondary students are parents. Many more parents are not able to participate in employment and training programs because of child-care obligations.
Some of the highest poverty rates are among parents of young children. Advancing a parent’s education level could improve employment prospects, increase a family’s income and help a young child’s development and future outlook. Currently, the Colorado Child Care Assistance Program is not equipped to meet the child care needs of parents who attend night classes or classes for short blocks of time. CCLP is developing a bill that would create an interagency and community task force to assess available resources, improve coordination and identify gaps in meeting the child-care needs of parents seeking to upgrade their skills for today’s job market.
Other legislation we expect to support
CCLP supports Gov. John Hickenlooper’s funding requests for affordable housing. The governor has asked for $12 million in marijuana tax dollars to build 1,200 new permanent supportive housing units in five years for chronically homeless individuals. The allotment also will cover the cost of “rapid rehousing” units for individuals experiencing episodic homelessness. In addition, the governor has asked for $4 million of marijuana tax revenue to provide housing vouchers for people with behavioral-health issues. CCLP supports these requests as well as a plan to appropriate $2 million per year from the general fund for the Housing Development Grant Fund, which would cover the cost of 250 affordable housing units for Coloradans who are currently spending more than 50 percent of their income on housing.
CCLP believes manufactured housing plays a critical role in promoting and preserving affordable housing in Colorado. In recent years, construction standards for manufactured housing have improved to prevent depreciation — making manufactured housing an investment that could provide long-term shelter for low-income Coloradans. CCLP is helping to craft legislation that could make it easier for owners of manufactured homes to establish resident-owned communities that would be more secure and less expensive than other residential alternatives.
We also support the Bell Policy Center’s legislation to conduct an actuarial study that could lead to the establishment of individual retirement saving accounts for those without access to other retirement savings plans. The shortfall in retirement savings is a danger both to individuals who could retire unprepared and for our state which likely would struggle to meet the needs of a growing older population that runs out of retirement savings. We also support the Bell Policy Center’s efforts to prevent financial institutions from raising interest rates on short-term consumer loans that could potentially hurt low-income Coloradans.
– Chaer Robert