Action Taken at State Level on National Position

POSITION IN BRIEF:

Support programs and policies to prevent or reduce poverty and to promote self-sufficiency for individuals and families.

HISTORY

In 1993 the LWVCO worked on six welfare bills, opposing four and supporting two – one of which, the major reform bill, survived the process to establish a voluntary pilot program that stressed helping recipients achieve and maintain self sufficiency.
Welfare reform was a major priority of LWVCO in 1997 following the passage of the federal act of 1996. Six major bills were introduced, resulting in a compromise bill which the League could support. League then helped with rules and regulations for implementation, and monitored the process during 1997-98. Another important piece of legislation that passed allowed income assistance to legal immigrants.

Old Age Pension B for those aged 60-64 years was a major priority in 1998. League fought successfully to keep it in the constitution as there is no other program to deal with this age group consisting mostly of women who are poor, in bad health and not well-educated.

In 1999 LWVCO worked in coalition to try to get health care for Aid to the Needy Disabled (AND) and to increase the monthly allowance to $299/month. We were successful only in getting a $249/month allowance.

In 2001 League successfully worked for passage of earned income disregards for those leaving welfare. Also successful was transitional Medicaid for one year for those leaving welfare and getting a job. Finally, LWVCO supported exit interviews for those who received diversion grants or left welfare so they would understand what services they could still receive.

During the 2002 legislative session the League supported several bills to improve welfare. These bills, which passed, dealt with developing a screening tool to identify mental health and substance abuse barriers, segregating federal welfare funds from county funds, and extending the life-time limit to allow counties to grant both hardship and domestic violence extensions.

In 2005 one League-supported bill passed that allows workers who lose their jobs due to domestic violence to be eligible for unemployment insurance right away. Workers will be given fifteen business days before they have to look for work.

In 2008 the Colorado Works Program Omnibus bill passed, supported by the League once it was extensively amended to restore hard-won elements from previous years and to increase flexibility for local governments to address local circumstances. The bill created a Colorado long-term works reserve and gradually reduced the percent of block grants that counties could hold in reserve down to 30%. The bill brought Colorado into compliance with federal requirements.

In the 2011 session, LWVCO opposed eliminating the Low-income Telephone Assistance Program, but by 2013 recognized that with reduced participation and increased costs, it was time to end the program.

In 2011 LWVCO supported attempts to mitigate the cliff effect when clients lose support as their income passes the poverty line, but the proposals were scaled back to a child care pilot project. Low-income energy assistance funding from severance taxes was extended for several years, though a bill League also supported to increase assistance for the elderly and disabled failed. Another League-supported bill passed that recommended an increase in the Old Age Pension and funded some dental care for recipients.

Two successful bills that LWVCO supported in 2013 increased to $10 million the amount set aside each year for in-home services to seniors, and created a permanent, refundable Earned Income Tax Credit and child tax credit. The credits won’t go into effect until certain economic triggers are reached.

In 2014 the Economic Opportunity and Poverty Reduction Task Force introduced seven bills on which they had worked through the interim. The task force also requested an audit of the Property Tax/Rent/Heat (PTC) rebate, which turned up deficiencies which a bill supported by League took steps to correct. League also supported a bill that increased the monthly amount of Aid to the Needy Disabled assistance that people could receive while applying for federal SSI or SSDI benefits.

Child care was the standout area for the year, with four bills passing, two of which LWVCO followed and supported. One filled a gap in eligibility for Colorado’s child care income tax credit, which was only available to those who owed enough federal taxes to take the federal credit. Improvements were also made to the Colorado Child Care Assistance Program: families below the poverty level will pay lower copays, reimbursement will be tiered to encourage high quality providers to participate, childcare hours will not be tied strictly to work hours, and the cliff effect will be moderated.

A start was made in 2015 toward passing through child support payments to recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, with League support. The bill will take effect in 2017 only if the state allocates general funds to replace revenue lost to the counties.

Steps were taken to prepare for social, economic and workforce issues arising from the rapid growth of the over-65 population in Colorado, by establishing a strategic planning group on aging, supported by League.