After a two month pause in the state legislative session due to the COVID-19 pandemic, legislators returned with a specific focus: to pass a balanced state budget as well as pass bills that will support Coloradans through the pandemic. We’ve outlined outcomes associated with Illuminate’s 2020 Policy Agenda highlighting policies that build one or more protective factors in Colorado below.
As to be expected, many of the bills introduced prior to COVID-19 no longer had paths forward, and those that did faced significant changes. The state budget has been significantly impacted by the pandemic and associated economic hardships — largely due to a loss in revenue from income tax and sales tax, accounting for the pandemic’s impact on employment, hospitality, retail, travel, and more.
The bright spots:
- Expand the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) in order to strengthen household financial security: While this provision was originally included in HB20-1203, the bill as written no longer had a path forward. A broader version, HB20-1420, was newly introduced and passed. The bill includes sections to expand EITC eligibility to ITIN filers starting in tax year 2020 and to increase the EITC benefit for all eligible families beginning in tax year 2022. EITC is an effective tool for racial justice, public health, and poverty reduction, as well as child maltreatment prevention.
- Create an annual cost-of-living adjustment in the Colorado Works Program Basic Cash Assistance Benefit: SB20-029 as amended and passed will provide a one-time $500 payment to families enrolled in TANF, rather than the original plan to increase the basic cash assistance amount and create an annual cost of living adjustment.
- Create a statewide universal preschool program: The first step to creating a universal preschool program was completed with the passage of HB20-1427. The bill refers a ballot measure to voters for the November 2020 general election regarding incremental sales tax changes on cigarettes and tobacco/nicotine products, including those used for vaping. The new revenue would be allocated to housing, rural schools, and the state education fund for the first 2.5 years, and beginning in fall 2023 would be allocated to a universal preschool program.
- Advance priorities emerging from the Infant and Family Child Care Action Plan: SB20-126 passed and will begin addressing Colorado’s child care shortage by requiring homeowners associations to allow licensed home-based child care programs that serve children ages 0-5 to operate.
- *New: Supporting families through the COVID-19 Pandemic: HB20-1410 and HB20-1412, both newly introduced and passed, support Coloradoans through housing assistance and utility bill payment-related assistance given the impact of COVID-19.
The work continues:
- Establish a statewide paid family and medical leave program for individuals to care for themselves and their families: Rather than a bill, this effort is being converted to a statewide ballot measure (Initiative 283) to seek voter approval in November for establishing a statewide Paid Family and Medical Leave policy.
- Invest in the expansion of home visitation programs throughout Colorado: Prior to COVID-19, SB20-144 Home Visiting Expansion Grant Program was postponed indefinitely by the bill sponsor. Stakeholders remain committed to expanding home visiting.
- Increase access to family planning services to support birth spacing, educational attainment, and economic stability of families: Unfortunately, the family planning line item will be cut by about $715k for FY 20-21 (pg. 141 of Long Bill Narrative) in conjunction with budget cuts across all state departments.
- Increase knowledge around healthy sexual development: Unfortunately, the Comprehensive Sexual Education program will be cut by about $500k for FY 20-21 (also pg. 141 of Long Bill Narrative) in conjunction with budget cuts across all state departments.
The bright spots:
- Revise the Colorado Children’s Code related to prenatal substance exposure to ensure families with a substance exposed newborn receive support and services appropriate to their family’s strengths and needs: This provision is included in SB20-028, which passed! Although the bill was amended and stripped down, it still contains this statute change that is a critical piece of supporting recovery for caregivers with a substance use disorder (SUD) while also ensuring children’s safety. The bill additionally continues the Opioid and other Substance Use Disorders Interim Study Committee, specifically to study the impacts of COVID-19 on substance use in Colorado during interim 2021.
- Ensure parents and caregivers have access to substance use disorder (SUD) recovery supports tailored to their needs: While significantly amended, the bills that came out of last year’s Opioid and Other Substance Use Disorders Interim Committee have passed, including HB20-1017 SUD Criminal Justice Reform, HB20-1085 SUD Prevention, and HB20-1065 SUD Harm Reduction. Additionally, HB20-1411 was newly introduced and passed to leverage funds from the federal CARES Act to mitigate against cuts to mental health programs and substance use treatment across the state.
The work continues:
- Study multi-generational treatment services for families including SUD treatment, mental health services, and children’s services: This study was originally included in SB20-007 SUD Treatment, however had to be amended out along with other sections in order to reduce the bill’s fiscal note. The bill as amended passed.
- Expand early intervention eligibility for developmental services for substance exposed newborns and their families: There wasn’t movement on including SENs in automatic EI eligibility this year. Additionally, early intervention evaluations will face a $250k cut in FY 20-21.
- Ensure families have access to resources at high stress points before child maltreatment occurs: In order to reduce the state’s budget shortfall in FY 20-21, the Tony Grampsas Youth Services Program is set to take a $1.8 million cut (pg. 78 of Long Bill Narrative). Additionally, Family Support Services will receive about a $500k cut for FY 20-21.
The work continues:
- Ensure adults in Colorado have the knowledge and resources to identify and support children and families where abuse and neglect has occurred: SB20-059 aimed to ensure all children and youth have protections under the law in regard to adults in a position of trust, regardless of the age of the youth. The bill was postponed indefinitely given this year’s context but will likely return next year.
- Ensure families who are child welfare involved have access to the appropriate resources via implementation of the Federal Family First Prevention Services Act: SB20-162 updates statutory provisions related to Colorado foster care prevention services and supports in the context of FFPSA. Opportunities remain to ensure that prevention services are readily accessible for families across the state.
- Ensure adults in Colorado have the resources to support individuals and families where abuse and neglect has occurred: HB20-1296 would have allowed child and adult survivors of sexual assault time to heal so that they may access the civil legal system and monetary resources necessary to rebuild their lives after surviving sexual abuse. Unfortunately, the bill ran out of time to make it through the legislative process this session.
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