When families, organizations, communities and policy makers focus on building protective factors, we can effectively prevent child maltreatment and keep families strong during the pandemic and beyond. Last week, state legislators were called together by Governor Jared Polis for a special legislative session in order to pass relief desperately needed by Colorado families due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Over the course of three days, lawmakers passed 10 bills that will provide more than $300 million in immediate relief for Coloradans in the midst of the current absence of federal stimulus.
Families and children in need across the state will especially benefit from the bills that passed supporting concrete supports in times of need, a protective factor, including support for the child care sector, housing/rental assistance, expanded internet access for remote learning, food pantry assistance and utility assistance.
Thank you to the Governor, legislators, staffers, advocates and community partners for their work to make the special session so successful.
Illuminating Policy During the 2020 Special Session
Child Care Sector Support
HB20B-1002, endorsed by Illuminate Colorado, will allocate over $45 million to existing child care providers through two grant programs. Currently there are child care facilities on the brink of financial collapse due to the pandemic, and this bill could potentially keep an estimated 2,600 child care facilities open and could preserve child care for more than 100,000 children in Colorado. Access to child care is critical for all parents and caregivers in order for children, families and communities to thrive.
Governor Polis Signing HB20B-1002 on December 7th, 2020
Housing and Rental Assistance
A safe and stable home had been unattainable for many Coloradans prior to the pandemic, and this need has now only been amplified. About 40% of Colorado adults recently surveyed said they live in a household that is behind on the rent or mortgage payment and at risk of eventual eviction or foreclosure. SB20B-002 will provide a total of $60 million in support for emergency housing assistance, emergency direct assistance (administered through non profits), eviction legal defense and unemployment extensions.
Expanding Internet Access for Remote Learning
As schools have transitioned to remote learning, the need for reliable internet access at home has become imperative for all Coloradans. HB20B-1001 will create the Connecting Colorado Students Grant program, offering $20 million in grants to local education providers to enhance broadband access for students and staff.
Food Pantry Assistance
Prior to the pandemic, food insecurity was a huge problem facing Colorado. Hunger is increasing in the midst of the pandemic with 45% of Colorado households with children reporting food insecurity. To enhance food assistance, HB20B-1003 will provide $5 million in additional grants to state food assistance programs from December through February.
As unemployment remains high, Coloradans are struggling to pay bills including their utilities. SB20B-003 appropriates $5 million to the Energy Outreach Colorado Low-Income Energy Assistance Fund. These funds will help address the 25% increase in applications that the fund has seen this year.
The state legislature is set to reconvene on January 13th, 2021. Details around the timing and processes of the session remain up in the air given COVID-19. Subscribe to the Illuminate blog to receive updates on Illuminate advocacy efforts and more information to empower you to advocate for policies that prevent child maltreatment.