Apr 14, 2017

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Legislative Update: April 14, 2017

by | Apr 14, 2017

‘Chance to Compete’ gains support
Every Coloradan deserves a chance to compete in the workforce. That’s why CCLP developed and built support for House Bill 1305, the Colorado Chance to Compete Act. In short, the legislation prohibits most employers from asking about criminal history on initial job applications.

Should HB 1305 pass, Colorado would join nine other states with similar laws. Studies show that when states and local governments enact such policies, job applicants are more likely to land face-to-face interviews, be judged on their merits and secure employment. Criminal justice experts consistently report that one of the biggest deterrents from reoffending is the ability to reenter the workforce.

On Thursday, HB 1305 was approved by the House Judiciary Committee following testimony from supporters who said the legislation would help people get a chance to compete for a job and be able to work and build financial security for themselves and their families.

Earlier this week, The Denver Post editorial board endorsed HB 1305, saying “We like this measure, and hope to see it become law.” Jenny Kraska of the Colorado Catholic Conference made the spiritual case for the legislation in this column in the Denver Catholic. Ed Blair, general manager of the Embassy Suites Denver Downtown hotel, explained why he supports HB 1305 in this op-ed in the Denver Business Journal (available for subscribers only). Finally, Public News Service developed an article about the bill.

If you are a business owner and would like to endorse this legislation or have any questions about the bill please, send email to jregenbogen@copolicy.org or call (303) 573-5669, ext. 321.

Bill to Watch: HB 1307
No one should have to choose between keeping their job and taking care of themselves, a sick family member or a newborn child. That’s why CCLP supports House Bill 1307, the FAMLI Act, sponsored by Rep. Faith Winter, D-Westminster and developed by 9to5 Colorado.

The legislation would establish a paid family and medical leave program across the state at no direct cost to employers. Instead, the program is entirely employee-funded through payroll deductions that amount to a cost of one cup of coffee per employee, per week. Under the program, employees who experience qualifying events would be able to take up to 12 weeks of leave per year with partial wage replacement. They will also be guaranteed that their job would be available when they return to active duty.

If HB 1307 passes, Colorado would join several other states across the country that have implemented similar paid family and medical leave programs. The bill passed out of the House Business Affairs and Labor Committee on Tuesday and was referred to the House Finance Committee.

On the Radar
Senate Bill 245, the “Notice to Quit” measure developed by CCLP, was approved with bipartisan support by the House Local Government Committee by a vote of 9-4. The bill would extend the state’s notification period for month-to-month tenants from seven days to 21 days. Thanks to Rep. Dan Pabon, D-Denver, and the advocacy partners who supported this bill, which now goes to the House floor!

Last week, Gov. John Hickenlooper signed HB 1126 into law. The measure is part of a three-bill package, developed by CCLP and the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition, intended to ensure that Medicaid clients do not lose access to health care without adequate notice and opportunity to contest the basis for the decision. Specifically, HB 1126 would ensure that an administrative law judge reviews the sufficiency of Medicaid termination notices at the beginning of an appeal hearing. Gov. Hickenlooper signed another bill in the trilogy, HB 1143, in March. The third piece, SB 121, passed out of the Senate was assigned to the House Health, Insurance and Environment Committee. As we’ve said before, these bills could save lives! Thanks to the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition and other stakeholders for your support in making the package a success (so far).

On Tuesday, April 17, the House Finance Committee will consider HB 1310, which limits the application fee a landlord may charge a prospective tenant to the amount necessary to cover actual costs for a personal reference check, consumer credit report or tenant-screening report. HB 1310 requires landlords to provide an itemized receipt of actual expenses incurred and requires landlords to return unused portions of such fees to the applicants. Building upon the groundwork set by 9to5 Colorado, CCLP developed HB 1310, which is sponsored in the House by Reps. Chris Kennedy, D-Lakewood and Dominique Jackson, D-Aurora and in the Senate by Sen. Stephen Fenberg, D-Boulder.

– By Bob Mook

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.