The Final Countdown: Make Your Voice Heard for Families During the Last Few Days of Colorado’s Legislative Session

The Final Countdown: Make Your Voice Heard for Families During the Last Few Days of Colorado’s Legislative Session

Colorado’s 2022 legislative session ends this Wednesday, May 11th, and your voice is needed now more than ever to get bills that will support our state’s kids and families over the finish line! We’ve put together a list of bills that are still moving and ways you can advocate for them in the last few days of this session. Bills move quickly at this point during the legislative session, so it’s important that you take action NOW before the advocacy opportunities below expire!

HB22-1259 Modifications To Colorado Works Program

This bill makes critical improvements to the Colorado Works program (our state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program). The TANF statute has not been meaningfully updated in roughly 15 years. At only $508 per month for a family of three, the program’s basic cash assistance (BCA) payments have not kept up with inflation or the high cost of living in Colorado and are worth far less today than they were in 1996 when the program began. This bill will increase BCA, ensure that it keeps up with the cost of living, and improve the ways TANF serves its participants so that all kids and families in Colorado can achieve economic prosperity. Learn why Illuminate supports this bill.

Take Action!

Contact your Colorado senator to urge them to support Colorado families’ economic security by voting ‘yes’ on HB22-1259.

Let’s Make Colorado Works Truly Work for Colorado Families

by Cassie Davis | Mar 3, 2022 | Advocacy

When we work together to build Protective Factors, it is possible to create a Colorado where all children and families thrive. House Bill 22-1259, a bill that would enhance our state’s efforts to invest in the well-being of Colorado families by making critical adjustments to Colorado Works . . . . 

HB22-1289 Health Benefits For Colorado Children And Pregnant Persons

This bill will increase access to health coverage for low-income children and pregnant people regardless of immigration status and make many other critical investments in perinatal services across the state. This bill will be a step forward in protecting the basic right of health care for all Coloradans and supporting all of our families during and after pregnancy. Learn why Illuminate supports this bill.

Take Action!

Contact your legislator to urge them to support the bill.

It’s Time for Us To Cover All Coloradans

by Cassie Davis | Mar 22, 2022 | Advocacy

Illuminate Colorado is proud to join a wide array of healthcare providers, community organizations and citizens across Colorado in advocating for HB22-1289 Health Benefits For Colorado Children And Pregnant Persons . . . . 

Healthy Meals for All Public School Students

Thanks to federal waivers, schools have been able to provide meals to all students and receive additional assistance to deal with supply chain challenges, staffing constraints and rising food costs during COVID-19. But those waivers will expire June 30th. There are two ways to make sure all students can continue to access meals at school. Learn why Illuminate supports these policies.

 

Take Action!

Please reach out to your legislators, share why school meals are crucial to your community, and ask them to:

Increasing Food Access in Schools Is on This Week’s Menu at the Colorado Legislature

by Cassie Davis | Mar 1, 2022 | Advocacy

Ensuring all Colorado students have access to school food at no cost increases the economic security of families, as well as students’ capacity to meaningfully engage in both the academic and social aspects of school.

HB22-1240 Mandatory Reporters

This bill would establish a Mandatory Reporter Task Force charged with analyzing best practices and recommending changes to training requirements and reporting procedures and analyzing the effectiveness of mandatory reporting and its relationship with systemic issues, including the disproportionate impact of mandatory reporting on under-resourced communities, communities of color, and persons with disabilities. Learn why Illuminate supports this bill.

Take Action!

Contact your senator to ask them to vote ‘yes’ on HB22-1240. 

Shifting Colorado Toward a Culture of Mandatory Supporting

by Illuminate Colorado | May 3, 2022 | Advocacy

With HB22-1240 Mandatory Reporters making its way through the Colorado legislature, an opportunity to transform how we approach ensuring child and family safety and well-being, including reducing disparities, is on the horizon for our state. . . .

We hope you will make your voice heard for Colorado’s kids and families during the remaining days of this legislative session! As always, you can keep track of the progress of these bills and others that impact families using Illuminate’s bill tracker.

Review the 2022 Policy Agenda

The Illuminate Colorado 2022 Policy Agenda highlights policies that build one or more protective factors in Colorado. Download the full Policy Agenda to learn more.

Bill Tracker

Use the Illuminate Colorado Bill Tracker to stay up to date on the progression of bills this session related to strengthening families.

Subscribe

Stay up to date on policy that prevents child maltreatment and the 2022 Illuminating Policy Agenda by subscribing to Illuminate Colorado’s blog.

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It’s Time for Us To Cover All Coloradans

It’s Time for Us To Cover All Coloradans

Illuminate Colorado is proud to join a wide array of healthcare providers, community organizations and citizens across Colorado in advocating for HB22-1289 Health Benefits For Colorado Children And Pregnant Persons, a recently-introduced bill being led by the Center for Health Progress that would Cover All Coloradans

HB22-1289 helps to ensure that all Coloradans have access to health insurance, especially during the critical periods of pregnancy and childhood. Access to health insurance helps to build Protective Factors in families by increasing their financial security and improving the physical, mental and behavioral health of the whole family. 

Where are we now?

While efforts to expand access to health insurance in Colorado have reduced uninsured rates, wide disparities by race and ethnicity remain. In particular, Colorado’s Hispanic/Latinx women of reproductive age are three times more likely to be uninsured, and our state’s Latinx children are twice as likely to be uninsured, compared to their non-Hispanic peers.1 

Uninsured Rates for Women (age 18-44) in Colorado, 2021

  • Non-Hispanic White 4.8% 4.8%
  • Hispanic/Latinx 14.1% 14.1%

Uninsured Rates for Children (age 0-18) in Colorado, 2021

  • Non Hispanic/Latinx 1.3% 1.3%
  • Hispanic/Latinx 7.5% 7.5%

How does HB22-1289 help Coloradans?

HB22-1289 addresses these disparities head on and improves the accessibility to and effectiveness of health insurance coverage for all Colorado children and pregnant and postpartum individuals by:

Expanding coverage.

    • Providing full health care coverage using existing federal funding for pregnant people who would otherwise be eligible for Medicaid and the children’s basic health plan (CHIP) if not for their immigration. status, and continuing coverage through 12 months postpartum.
    • Providing full health care coverage to children, regardless of immigration status, through age 18.

Providing support to pregnant and postpartum individuals by improving access to parental support programs.

Collecting data for improved health care equity by strengthening and permanently authorizing the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment’s Health eMoms Survey.

Expanding health insurance enrollment by creating a Special Enrollment Period for pregnancy so that people can sign up for insurance when they become pregnant and not have to wait until later in the year.

Increasing utilization by creating an outreach and enrollment strategy for enrolling eligible groups into new coverage options.

 

All people need access to health insurance, which is an important social determinant of health and vital building block of family financial security, especially during the unique times of childhood and during and after pregnancy. HB22-1289 is critical to improving health insurance coverage for Colorado’s children and pregnant and postpartum individuals, including by addressing the disparities that families of color face when they are routinely and systemically denied access to care.

Colorado should not miss this opportunity that more than 20 other states (Figure 2) have already taken to lower infant, child and adult mortality rates and to support the physical and mental health of all children and pregnant and postpartum individuals who call our state home.

 

How can I get involved?

HB22-1289 is scheduled to be heard in the House Public & Behavioral Health & Human Services Committee on March 25, 2022, upon adjournment of the full House. Contact members of the committee before the hearing to urge them to ensure all of Colorado’s children and pregnant and postpartum individuals have access to critical health insurance coverage by voting ‘yes’ on HB22-1289. 

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The Illuminate Colorado 2022 Policy Agenda highlights policies that build one or more protective factors in Colorado. Download the full Policy Agenda to learn more.

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Subscribe

Stay up to date on policy that prevents child maltreatment and the 2022 Illuminating Policy Agenda by subscribing to Illuminate Colorado’s blog.

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Let’s Make Colorado Works Truly Work for Colorado Families

Let’s Make Colorado Works Truly Work for Colorado Families

When we work together to build Protective Factors, it is possible to create a Colorado where all children and families thrive. House Bill 22-1259, a bill that would enhance our state’s efforts to invest in the well-being of Colorado families by making critical adjustments to Colorado Works, Colorado’s existing Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, was introduced in the Colorado House last week.

Illuminate Colorado, a proud member of the TANF Coalition led by the Colorado Children’s Campaign, enthusiastically supports the bill and its capacity to prevent child maltreatment by building two crucial Protective Factors in families: parental resilience and concrete support in times of need.

What’s in the works?

Currently, Basic Cash Assistance (BCA) provided to families through the Colorado Works program is only $508 a month for a family of three, leaving that family living at about 28% of the poverty level.1 HB22-1259 creates a 5-year phase-in plan to increase BCA payments for families to the equivalent of 50% of the poverty level, or $915 a month for a family of three, and ensure that payments keep up with the rising cost of living in Colorado in future years. 

In addition to increasing the Basic Cash Assistance that families receive to 50% of the poverty level, HB22-1259 increases accessibility of the program, more sustainably improves families’ economic security by creating a smoother ‘off-ramp’, and prioritizes the engagement of families who are impacted by the program by involving them in spaces where decisions are made about it. To learn more about TANF and why these changes are needed, you can listen to TANF Coalition members Coressia Sanders, Ealasha Vaughner, and Kayla Frawley discussing TANF on last week’s West Steps podcast.

How can I get involved?

Even before the pandemic, families enrolled in Colorado Works were facing the greatest barriers to financial security and well-being, meaning that the improvements that HB22-1259 will make to the program are more crucial than ever before to ensuring that Colorado Works truly works for Colorado families. 

A critical opportunity to build on the existing Colorado Works program in pursuit of economic mobility, self-sufficiency and safety for Colorado families is before us. Contact members of the House Public and Behavioral Health and Human Services Committee before the hearing on March 15th to urge them to strengthen Colorado families by voting ‘yes’ on HB22-1259.

Don’t miss your chance to Speak Up for Kids!

Looking for another way to advocate for HB22-1259 and other bills that impact Colorado families? Registration for Speak Up for Kids on March 17 closes soon! Sign up today to join Illuminate and advocates from across Colorado for this annual advocacy day led by the Colorado Children’s Campaign, Clayton Early Learning and Children’s Hospital Colorado. 

Review the 2022 Policy Agenda

The Illuminate Colorado 2022 Policy Agenda highlights policies that build one or more protective factors in Colorado. Download the full Policy Agenda to learn more.

Bill Tracker

Use the Illuminate Colorado Bill Tracker to stay up to date on the progression of bills this session related to strengthening families.

Subscribe

Stay up to date on policy that prevents child maltreatment and the 2022 Illuminating Policy Agenda by subscribing to Illuminate Colorado’s blog.

Citations

1. Code of Colorado Regulations. (2022, March 2). Income Maintenance (Volume 3), Colorado Works Program. https://www.sos.state.co.us/CCR/GenerateRulePdf.do?ruleVersionId=10019&fileName=9%20CCR%202503-6

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Increasing Food Access in Schools Is on This Week’s Menu at the Colorado Legislature

Increasing Food Access in Schools Is on This Week’s Menu at the Colorado Legislature

Increasing food access in schools is on the menu at the Colorado legislature this legislative session. SB22-087 Healthy Meals for All Public School Students, a bill that would make school meals available at no cost to all students in participating Colorado school districts, is scheduled to be heard in the Senate Education Committee this Wednesday, March 2.

Illuminate Colorado enthusiastically supports this bill, which is being led by the Healthy School Meals for All Coalition, due to its capacity to strengthen Colorado families and communities in multiple ways. Ensuring all Colorado students have access to school food at no cost increases the economic security of families, as well as students’ capacity to meaningfully engage in both the academic and social aspects of school.

Existing free and reduced-price meal program income thresholds are far too low to account for all families who need these programs (Figure 1), and only offering free school meals to some students increases the stigma faced by low-income students. Eliminating lunch debts is critical to ensuring that families are able to meet other basic needs and to avoiding perpetuation of stigma for low-income students.

Nourishing Kids and Communities

In addition to providing concrete supports to all Colorado students and families, the bill further strengthens Colorado families and communities by incentivizing the purchase of ingredients from local food systems, increasing wages for individuals employed by school meal programs and offering healthier meal options to students. 

The bill offers:

    • The option to participate in a local procurement grant program that would provide schools with funds to purchase food from local farms and ranches
    • The option to participate in a grant program that would enable schools to  increase their pay for the staff who serve and prepare meals for students
    • Funding for equipment and training to provide students with healthier meals

The cherry on top?

The bill has the potential to increase Colorado students’ and families’ ownership of their school food programs by incentivizing the development of Student and Parent Healthy School Meals for All Advisory Committees that are reflective of the student population and focused on ensuring that meals are culturally relevant, healthy, and appealing to all ages of the student population.

This program won’t be starting from an empty plate.

Currently, all schools are able to provide school meals to any child who needs them as part of COVID-19 federal aid, and school districts that have implemented School Meals for All in the past, as well as districts in Colorado that have implemented it this year, have seen a 20 percent increase in participation when school meals are available to all students.1

Colorado should not miss this proven and timely opportunity to increase families’ food and economic security, all while supporting local Colorado food systems and school food program employees. Contact members of the Senate Education Committee before the hearing on March 2 to urge them to vote ‘yes’ on SB22-087  in order to strengthen the economic and food security of families and communities across Colorado. 

Review the 2022 Policy Agenda

The Illuminate Colorado 2022 Policy Agenda highlights policies that build one or more protective factors in Colorado. Download the full Policy Agenda to learn more.

Bill Tracker

Use the Illuminate Colorado Bill Tracker to stay up to date on the progression of bills this session related to strengthening families.

Subscribe

Stay up to date on policy that prevents child maltreatment and the 2022 Illuminating Policy Agenda by subscribing to Illuminate Colorado’s blog.

Citations

1. Healthy School Meals for All Coalition. (n.d.). Healthy School Meals for All: The Time is Now for Healthy School Meals for All Colorado Children. Retrieved February 24, 2022, from https://drive.google.com/file/d/1JrpGgyRvTHvQOun5Uktko54TkOEU8-QZ/view

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Bill To Make Diapers More Affordable Passes Colorado’s House Finance Committee

Bill To Make Diapers More Affordable Passes Colorado’s House Finance Committee

Earlier this week, HB22-1055, a bill being led by the Don’t Tax Dignity Coalition and proudly supported by Illuminate Colorado, passed its first hearing with a bipartisan vote of 8-3 in the House Finance Committee. HB22-1055 Sales Tax Exemption Essential Hygiene Products has the capacity to strengthen families’ economic security by creating a state sales tax exemption for all sales, storage, use and consumption of diapers and menstrual products.

Diaper Access Can Affect the Whole Family

Increasing the affordability of families’ basic and essential products, such as infant diapers and menstrual products, promotes multiple protective factors proven to prevent child maltreatment, including concrete support and parental resilience. Treating these items as essential could help build protective factors in millions of Coloradans, including the more than 202,000 children under 3 years of age and their families.1

What are the protective factors?

Protective factors help people deal more effectively with stressful events and mitigate or eliminate risk in families and communities. The five protective factors have been shown to increase the likelihood of positive outcomes for children and families. The five protective factors are:

    • Parental Resilience
    • Social Connections
    • Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development
    • Concrete Support in Times of Need
    • Social and Emotional Competence of Children

The average Colorado family spends about $80 a month (almost $1,000 per year) per child under 3 for diapers and about $15 a month (almost $200 per year) on period products per family member who needs them.1 One in three of these families report needing more diapers but not being able to afford them, and some parents report missing up to four days of work per month because they cannot provide enough diapers to their child care provider.2Colorado can take the first step toward changing that by ensuring that these essential products are not taxed.

In addition to strengthening the economic security of all Colorado families, increasing the affordability of these essential products supports the advancement of equity in Colorado.

    • State sales taxes on these essential products are shouldered predominantly by female-identifying individuals.
    • Sales taxes disproportionately impact the budgets of individuals and families with lower incomes, and programs that typically help individuals purchase other essential items, such as SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), commonly called food stamps, and WIC (Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children), which provides food access for families with young children, don’t allow for the purchase of these essential items.
    • Black and Latino families in Colorado are already more likely to struggle with access to these essential products as a result of historical and ongoing systemic inequities.

It’s Time for a Change

The time is now to start treating these essential products the same way we treat other essentials, like food and medicine. The Colorado legislature already acknowledged the essential nature of diapers for children by developing a grant program last year allowing families struggling financially to receive help to get the products they need, and HB22-1055 is an opportunity to build on this momentum. Illuminate Colorado is thrilled that our state’s elected officials have taken the first step toward doing so by passing the bill with bipartisan support through the House Finance Committee and referring it to the House Appropriations Committee. 

Join Illuminate in thanking the bill’s sponsors (Rep. Lontine and Rep. Herod) and the House Finance Committee for taking action to strengthen families’ economic security and reduce parenting stress, two critical strategies for preventing child maltreatment and promoting child health and development. 

Citations

1. Don’t Tax Dignity Coalition. (n.d.). Don’t Tax Dignity. Retreived February 27, 2022, from https://www.donttaxdignity.co/ 

2. National Diaper Bank Network. (2021, March). Colorado Diaper Facts. https://nationaldiaperbanknetwork.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/2020_State_Diaper_Facts_3_2021_Colorado_V1.pdf 

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