Apr 15, 2019

Recent articles

Recap: Special Legislative Session 2023

In the aftermath of the 2023 November election and the failure of Proposition HH, Colorado Governor Jared Polis called a special session of the Colorado General Assembly, held from November 17 to November 20.  Over the course of a fast-paced and grueling weekend of...

Systemic failure in Colorado’s PHE Unwind

During this post-COVID year of Medicaid renewals, known as the Public Health Emergency (PHE) Unwind, Colorado is terminating members at rates that are among the highest in the country, many for procedural reasons.

ADVOCACY ALERT: Support affordable housing in Colorado

The lack of affordable housing continues to be a crisis in Colorado, with no end in sight. A recent poll identified affordable housing as the No. 1 issue among likely Denver voters. But the problem is not isolated to the Front Range: Over 6,000 households in the Eastern Plains, 9,000 households in the Central Mountains and 32,000 households in the Western Slope are weighed down by the cost of housing.

This crisis destabilizes the health and well-being of individual Coloradans and families by crowding out spending on other necessities, keeping them from saving money to cushion against an emergency and sometimes pushing them into homelessness. Studies consistently show that housing instability negatively affects children’s academic performance, mental health and long-term financial security.

In recent years, budgetary limitations have prevented Colorado legislators from providing adequate financial resources to address this growing and persistent problem. Indeed, any meaningful public investment into affordable housing would require tens of millions of dollars over a prolonged period, and money coming from the state’s general fund would compete with education, health care, transportation and higher education and other important needs.

Fortunately, legislators will have an opportunity to consider a measure this session that will help relieve the housing crisis without fiscal implications for the state’s budget or taxpayers.

Developed by Colorado Center on Law and Policy, House Bill 1322 would expand the supply of affordable housing by investing $40 million a year for seven years into a fund that would provide grants and loans for a range of needs, including acquisition, renovation and construction of affordable housing. In addition, the fund could finance down-payment assistance and support home-ownership. It would also help keep mobile homes livable and provide rental assistance for a range of populations.

The fund would be administered by the Colorado Division of Housing, which would consult with stakeholders from urban and rural communities so that the funds address a variety of needs throughout the state. HB 1322 reflects discussions of a broad group of stakeholders from urban and rural areas, convened by Democrats and Republicans in the House and the Senate.

The bill doesn’t rely on taxpayer dollars or tap into the state budget. Funding will come from the unclaimed property trust fund: a sustainable source of revenue that’s been used to pay for dental benefits for adult Medicaid recipients. It was also used to shore up general fund during the recession. The unclaimed property fund consists of dormant bank accounts, securities and life insurance proceeds and the like. While Colorado’s State Treasure makes a tremendous effort to reunite people with money they forgot or didn’t know they had, there are hundreds of millions of dollars in the fund that remain uncollected every year. HB 1322 would put a fraction of that money to good use solving a real problem in Colorado: the lack of affordable housing.

Sponsored by Rep. Dylan Roberts, Sen. Dominick Moreno and Sen. Don Coram, HB 1322 has been endorsed by the Urban Land Conservancy, Enterprise Community Partners, Colorado Municipal League, Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, Colorado Counties Acting Together, Habitat for Humanity Colorado, Interfaith Alliance, Boulder Housing Partners, Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition, The Denver Foundation, Center for Health Progress, Colorado Senior Lobby, Colorado Bankers Association, Denver Metro Fair Housing Center, Together Colorado, The Arc of Colorado, Denver Metro Fair Housing Center, Together Colorado and Wells Fargo Bank.

HB 1322 is scheduled to be heard by the House Finance Committee on Wednesday, April 17. If you are interested in joining the coalition of organizations and individuals supporting the bill, please contact Claire Levy at clevy@copolicy.org.

Recent articles

Recap: Special Legislative Session 2023

In the aftermath of the 2023 November election and the failure of Proposition HH, Colorado Governor Jared Polis called a special session of the Colorado General Assembly, held from November 17 to November 20.  Over the course of a fast-paced and grueling weekend of...

Systemic failure in Colorado’s PHE Unwind

During this post-COVID year of Medicaid renewals, known as the Public Health Emergency (PHE) Unwind, Colorado is terminating members at rates that are among the highest in the country, many for procedural reasons.

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.