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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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. 

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. 

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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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Survey Says: The Time is Now for Colorado to Invest Resources in the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse

Survey Says: The Time is Now for Colorado to Invest Resources in the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse

Research published in Creating a Colorado Where Children Grow Up Free From Sexual Abuse: An Issue Brief on the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse in Colorado at the end of 2021 indicates that the conditions are right and the time is now for Colorado to invest resources in proven strategies for preventing child sexual abuse and increasing the capacity to identify when abuse has occurred, promote healing and prevent future harm. 

We need to give all Coloradans the skills they need to protect children and create communities where children have the opportunity to grow up healthy, happy and safe. It is possible to ensure that every child, in every community, never experiences sexual abuse if prevention strategies are thoughtfully incorporated into all aspects of society by governments, businesses, nonprofits, community organizations and individuals.

The Colorado legislature previously demonstrated a commitment to doing this when it began providing resources for adult education about child sexual abuse prevention in 2015. However, in 2020, the Colorado General Fund’s annual allocation of $250,000 for these efforts was cut due to the pandemic, and these resources were not restored during the 2021 session. It is imperative that these funds are restored during the 2022 session, and the data indicates that Colorado is at an intersection of need and opportunity that will enable us to optimize resources that are put toward adult education about child sexual abuse prevention. 

The Time Is Now

While less than half of parents (47%) say they typically use anatomically correct terms, when informed that using these terms is a way to prevent child sexual abuse, 71% of parents said they would consider using anatomical terms. Additionally, less than half of adults (43%) are confident in their ability to identify a child who is being sexually abused and 1 in 3 adults (32%) reported a lack of confidence in their ability to identify grooming behaviors.

The opportunity to shift this reality is immense and one that Colorado cannot overlook. While a majority of adults (85%) have not taken any training on child sexual abuse prevention, those who have believe it is helpful and report an increase in ability to identify grooming behavior, a willingness to intervene if they see someone engage in risky behaviors with a child, and that they will be vigilant in creating and respecting boundaries.  

With support of more than 80 local authorized facilitators over several years, more than 8,000 people in Colorado have been trained to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to child sexual abuse. Restoring the General Fund’s allocation of resources to the Child Abuse Prevention Trust Fund will enable Colorado to build on this momentum and reach a tipping point needed for Colorado children to have the opportunity to grow up healthy, happy and safe.

Take Action

Joint Budget Committee (JBC) members are scheduled to consider this part of the state budget on 2/15 and they need to hear from you. Contact JBC members ahead of 2/15 to urge them to invest resources in proven strategies for preventing child sexual abuse by restoring the General Fund’s allocation of resources to the Child Abuse Prevention Trust Fund for child sexual abuse prevention.

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