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WFCO Lobbyist Previews 2021 Legislative Session

// February 16, 2021

Helping Women Statewide Meet Their Families’ Immediate Needs, Rebuilding More Equitable Systems Top Goals

State legislators will “re-start” the first regular session of Colorado’s 73 General Assembly today that paused in early January due to the pandemic. It’s likely to be a packed session for The Women’s Foundation, our advocates, and our lobbying partners. The pandemic disproportionately took a toll on women’s economic stability statewide, especially women of color and women with low incomes. The Foundation’s goals include helping them meet their families’ immediate basic needs and rebuilding more equitable systems.

How do WFCO’s goals fit into the overall legislative picture?

How do our priorities fit into the overall legislative picture? WFCO’s long-time lobbying partner, Jennifer Miles with Frontline Public Affairs, shared her insights.

“Clearly the pandemic and economic downturn are top of mind for legislators,” said Jennifer. “To the extent that The Foundation’s policy priorities are related to that – for instance child care – they will fit well into these conversations.”

“Clearly the pandemic and economic downturn are top of mind for legislators,” said Jennifer. “To the extent that The Foundation’s policy priorities are related to that – for instance child care – they will fit well into these conversations.”

As a nonpartisan 501(c)(3) organization, WFCO can spend limited resources on lobbying. To that point, The Foundation evaluates a policy and the allocation of existing resources to advocate for it by asking ourselves if it:

  • Addresses root causes of poverty and promote economic security?
  • Improves Colorado’s tax and budget policies to allows for sufficient resources to be dedicated to WFCO priorities?
  • Promotes issues and protects rights aligned with the core values of WFCO?

Priorities span from diapering essentials to Medicaid expansion

With these guidelines in mind, and what we learned through our Women and Families of CO Relief Fund (WFCO Relief Fund), WFCO’s public policy committee voted to support the following bills (bill numbers have yet to be assigned).

  • Emergency Supplies for CO Babies and Families. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, 1 in 3 Colorado families reported needing more diapers than they could afford. This bill would earmark $4 million in funding for diapering essentials to low-income families.
  • Expansion of the earned-income tax credit (EITC) and funding child tax credit (CTC). The EITC, an effective anti-poverty measure, is a refundable tax credit for low- and moderate-income working families. The CTC helps families offset the costs of raising children.
  • Increase the Supply of Family Child Care Homes. Licensed child care offered in a provider’s primary place of residence is commonly referred to as a family child care home (FCCH). Some localities and municipalities categorize the “use” of a child care provider’s home as a commercial “use.” This categorization comes with increased requirements that limit the viability and operations of FCCHs.
  • Medicaid Expansion for Family Planning Services. WFCO supports two bills to improve access to family planning services through Medicaid. One bill will expand Medicaid to include contraceptives for undocumented people and require coverage of a year’s supply of oral contraceptives for all who use Medicaid. The other will expand income eligibility for family planning services through Medicaid to cover Coloradans with moderate incomes.

Budget line items will support the early care and education workforce

Additionally, with input from a diverse set of stakeholders, WFCO will continue to prioritize legislation that will advance the sector. As an example, WFCO will use our lobbying resources to support two budget line items. Each year the governor proposes a state budget. This year, Gov. Polis included two budget line items to support the early care and education (ECE) workforce. 

  1. Support for Early Childhood Educator Workforce – $1.2 million to create and fund a recruitment and retention grant and scholarship program
  2. CCCAP Early Childhood Educator Salary Increase – $3 million to create and implement a pilot grant program studying the impact of subsidized wages for ECE educators; $2.8 million for wage increases, $200,000 for program administration and evaluation

An early outlook on the state budget

The early outlook for these line items to be included in the budget is strong. Heading into the session, the state is in the uncharacteristic position of having “extra” revenue on hand because pre-pandemic tax collections came in higher than projected a year ago. Based on the projections at that time, the 2020 session slashed $3 billion in general fund spending to balance the current FY20-21 budget. The actual flow of revenue tallied later gave 2021 lawmakers about $1 billion more than they expected to have.

“There are two factors worth noting with the budget. One, our state income tax is not down as much as it could have been. Rich people who pay more in income taxes generally have not seen their incomes drop during the pandemic,” said Jennifer. “Secondly, estimates said our Medicaid program would grow with more people needing public insurance, but that projected growth hasn’t happened. It’s possible that the workers who have been hit the hardest already had Medicaid.”

Using our gender, racial equity lens to examine future bills

As the session begins, WFCO will continually examine our positions on bills through our equity and statewide lenses. It’s likely that reckoning with the economic fallout of the pandemic as well as last summer’s murder of George Floyd will continue to elevate issues related to racial equity at the legislature. Likewise, Colorado boasts the second highest percentage of women in a state legislature, which may influence the creation of more policies to benefit women and their families.

“The diaper bill is a great example of that,” said Jennifer. “Four moms are bringing forward this legislation and that may not have happened in previous years.”

How you can become more involved

To read more about the specifics of each bill and see an up-to-date list of bills The Foundation will support, visit our 2021 legislative session page. To learn how to advocate for women statewide, sign up for our free Advocating for Impact training series that kicks off tomorrow – Feb. 17 – and is scheduled for the third Wednesday of every Month through June.

WFCO thanks WomenGive United Way of Larimer County and The Chambers Fund, a donor-advised fund of The Women’s Foundation of Colorado, for their support of our public policy work.

 

 

 

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