STAFF SUMMARY OF MEETING
ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY POVERTY REDUCTION TASK FORCE
|Time:||09:01 AM to 04:00 PM|
|This Meeting was called to order by|
|This Report was prepared by|
X = Present, E = Excused, A = Absent, * = Present after roll call
|Bills Addressed: ||Action Taken:|
Subcommittee Updates from Chairs
Realities of Low-Income Working Families
Workforce Development/Employer Best Practices
|Witness Testimony and/or Committee Discussion Only|
Witness Testimony and/or Committee Discussion Only
Witness Testimony and/or Committee Discussion Only
Witness Testimony and/or Committee Discussion Only
Witness Testimony and/or Committee Discussion Only
Witness Testimony and/or Committee Discussion Only
Witness Testimony and/or Committee Discussion Only
Witness Testimony and/or Committee Discussion Only
09:02 AM -- Opening Remarks
The task force was called to order. Representative Kefalas, chair, made opening remarks thanking everyone for their participation in the task force. He discussed correspondence he had received regarding the work of the task force, and provided a summary of some of the topics that had been addressed in previous meetings. Representative Kefalas described the challenges facing the task force and provided an outline of the day's agenda, indicating that the meeting would focus on working families. He spoke about topics to be discussed at future meetings, and indicated that members should begin thinking of potential committee legislation.
09:11 AM -- Subcommittee Updates from Chairs
09:12 AM -- Representative Kagan provided an update on the Housing and Utilities Subcommittee. He stated that the subcommittee had met twice and provided a summary of topics that had been discussed. The subcommittee has discussed the maximization of affordable housing and has considered testimony from various groups, including the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless and Colorado Counties, Inc. He described the current funding sources for affordable housing and discussed obstacles to developing more housing for individuals who are homeless. Representative Kagan outlined several suggestions for ways to increase the availability of affordable housing and to provide housing for those most in need. One suggestion was to make sure that agreements to provide affordable housing remain in place even when a housing development falls under new ownership. Representative Kagan described testimony from a University of Colorado-Denver political science professor regarding financing affordable housing through income from tax increment financing districts, a method some states already use, or through income from dedicated affordable housing tax districts. He discussed additional testimony regarding the issues facing rural Colorado and regarding the use of Regional Transportation District land to provide affordable housing. Representative Kagan explained that political considerations may be obstacles to the development of affordable housing for the poor and homeless. Representative Kagan described a report that the subcommittee will produce and noted his concern that affordable housing is not currently targeted at those who need it the most.
Senator Boyd addressed Representative Kagan's comments concerning special district tax financing for affordable housing, and indicated that related legislation had been introduced on that topic in the past. Representative Kefalas made additional comments, noting that while the charge of the committee is to address the needs of individuals living in extreme poverty, the needs of middle-income families who are struggling should also be considered.
09:25 AM -- Senator Boyd provided an update on the Access to/Coordination of Public Benefits and Nonprofit/Faith-Based Assistance Subcommittee, which is co-chaired by Representative Summers and will hold its first meeting on Wednesday, September 9th.
09:26 AM -- Senator Sandoval provided an update on the Problem Scope and Poverty Metrics in Colorado Subcommittee. Senator Sandoval recognized vice-chair Lisa Piscopo. Senator Sandoval discussed a Legislative Council Staff memorandum by Kate Watkins that has provided a foundation for subcommittee discussions. She described the membership of the subcommittee and indicated that the group will eventually produce a report to be shared with the full task force. She stated that the subcommittee is focused on developing a model of poverty, and addressed the need to agree on a definition of poverty. Senator Sandoval provided a basic summary of the subcommittee's poverty model, which focuses on assets that lead to self-sufficiency and a movement out of poverty. She stated that the subcommittee will discuss metrics to measure movement between refined levels of poverty, a measurement not currently examined under federal poverty guidelines. Senator Sandoval addressed federal legislation that would affect the measurement of poverty.
09:31 AM -- Senator Hudak provided an update on the Poverty and Education Subcommittee. She stated that the subcommittee aims to examine poverty and education from a full P-20 perspective She outlined some of the suggestions that the subcommittee has discussed, including: eliminating existing silos between departments; enabling early childhood programs to continue throughout a child's life; efforts to prevent truancy; support services for middle-schoolers; and the "cliff effect" experienced by low-income students who cannot access funds to continue their education past the community college level. Senator Hudak stated that all individuals could benefit by taking classes at community colleges and colleges, and suggested that college credit be given for actions that would lessen an individual's need for public assistance. Senator Hudak noted the importance of "soft skills" education on issues such as time management and communication. She stated that some low-income families are already identified through early childhood programs, which would enable easier identification of families who would qualify for additional services. She noted that the subcommittee will examine child care and the use of family resource centers in upcoming meetings.
Representative Kefalas discussed the possibility of establishing "promise neighborhoods" in Denver on a model similar to the Harlem Children's Zone. He discussed previous testimony from the Department of Higher Education regarding the graduation rate from colleges over a six-year period. Senator Sandoval reminded subcommittee chairs of the deadline to submit ideas for legislation and encouraged chairs to develop reports that can be folded into the committee's final report.
09:44 AM -- Realities of Low-Income Working Families
The committee heard a panel presentation titled the "Realities of Low-Income Working Families." The panel was asked to discuss challenges and opportunities involving: building family assets and financial stability; increasing educational opportunities and upgrading work skills; making work pay; addressing child care and other work supports; and becoming self-sufficient. Representative Kefalas described the format for the presentation, and noted that the discussion would have a moderator to summarize each panelist's testimony. Ms. Bridget Reavy, representing 9 to 5, National Association of Working Women, introduced herself as the panel's moderator.
09:48 AM -- Ms. Anna Davis, representing herself and 9 to 5, National Association of Working Women, described her personal experiences with poverty as a single mother of six children and as a victim of domestic violence. Ms. Davis summarized the steps she took to end her abusive relationship and to begin accessing benefits and furthering her education. She spoke about her time at the Community College of Denver, and noted that the support system that helped her there no longer exists. Ms. Davis discussed the benefits programs that she has used, including the Child Care Assistance Program, Medicaid, and food stamps. She described benefits programs that she was not able to access due to eligibility requirements, such as Temporary Aid for Needy Families (TANF). Ms. Davis explained that budget cuts had at one point made students ineligible for child care assistance. Ms. Davis outlined the issues faced by victims of domestic violence, and noted that she now has a masters in Public Affairs from the University of Colorado at Denver, and that she specializes in domestic violence. Ms. Davis suggested ways to provide victims of domestic violence with benefits more easily, and stated that an application form cannot always accurately represent an individual's true circumstances. Ms. Reavy summarized Ms. Davis's remarks.
09:58 AM -- Ms. Germaine O'Donnell, representing 9 to 5, National Association of Working Women, described her experiences as a victim of gender and disability discrimination. She stated that she is currently unemployed as a result of workplace discrimination, and now depends on Medicare and Social Security Disability Insurance payments. Ms. O'Donnell outlined her experiences with her former employer, and stated that she has filed charges against the employer but cannot afford a lawyer. She suggested that once an employer has been made aware of an employee's medical problem, the employer should be required to allow the employee to leave the workplace for medical reasons without jeopardizing his or her employment. She also suggested that taxpayer-funded agencies such as the Civil Rights Commission should use a panel of civilians to make decisions. Ms. Reavy provided a summary of Ms. O'Donnell's remarks.
10:04 AM -- Ms. Jasmine Peters, representing Single Parents United, introduced herself and described her organization, which promotes self-sufficiency for single parents. She stated that she is a single parent of five children and she discussed her employment history. Ms. Peters spoke about her personal experiences being homeless and dependent on public assistance. She explained that the application process for public assistance can be overwhelming and frustrating, and she provided detail on specific struggles that she experienced. She suggested that databases should share information better to lessen the paperwork required from people applying for assistance. She also suggested that programs should provide incentives to individuals receiving assistance who wish to further their education. She discussed the possibility that the "cliff effect" could be lessened by allowing individuals who find employment while on public assistance to gradually decrease the benefits they receive as their pay increases, rather than being cut off from public assistance immediately.
10:09 AM -- Ms. Laura Reinsch, representing herself, spoke in favor of providing paid sick days for all Colorado workers. Ms. Reinsch described her experience as a retail worker. She indicated that she would probably be considered "working poor," as she lives paycheck to paycheck and has no assets. She indicated that she currently has no paid sick leave, although she has worked for her employer for two and a half years. Ms. Reinsch explained that she is unable to use vacation time for sick leave because vacation time must be requested two weeks in advance. Ms. Reinsch indicated that missing a day of work would prevent her from fulfilling her monetary obligations, so she goes to work even if she is sick. She suggested that other people at her workplace behave similarly, which may lead to customers getting sick as well. Ms. Reinsch noted that managers get paid sick leave. She stated that no one should have to choose between having a job and having a sick day, and she commented that her situation is even more challenging for women who have children. She described studies that indicate that paid sick leave is good for the economy and for public health, and businesses that offer paid sick leave see increased productivity and decreased turnover. She discussed the H1N1 flu virus and noted that the government has encouraged people who are sick to stay home from work. She pointed out that public service workers are unlikely to have sick days and are likely to have daily contact with members of the public. She encouraged the legislature to require that all employers provide paid sick leave. Ms. Reavy summarized Ms. Reinsch's remarks.
10:15 AM -- Ms. Lisa Rogers, representing Feed Denver: Urban Farms & Markets, described her background as an entrepreneur and as a small business consultant. She discussed her personal struggles with unemployment and spoke about the unemployment rate among her neighbors in Denver's Highlands neighborhood. She explained that many people in her situation are suffering from decreased investments and have exhausted available benefits. She stated that many individuals do not understand the public benefits system, and did not expect to be unemployed for so long. Ms. Rogers commented on the decline of "core human work" and vocational skills. She suggested that corporations, rules, and regulations have squeezed out cottage industries, preventing individuals and local businesses from making a living by providing core services such as making clothes or food for neighbors. Ms. Reavy summarized Ms. Rogers' testimony.
Representative Gagliardi described her experience as a single mother and asked Ms. Davis to provide additional information on the support system at the Community College of Denver. Ms. Davis explained that she had seen a counselor for women who specialized in helping single mothers in an effort to retain students; she indicated that the position has since been eliminated. Responding to questions from Representative Kefalas, Ms. Davis indicated that she was not sure how the counselor was evaluated, but surmised that the position had been cut due to funding issues. Representative Kefalas encouraged representatives from the Community College of Denver to explore ways to evaluate the performance of such counselors to ensure that programs that are cut are programs that are not working, rather than ones that are. Ms. Davis added that when she transferred to Metro State College of Denver, the Institute for Women's Studies and Services provided similar support with a full-time staff. Responding to questions from Representative Gagliardi, Ms. Davis addressed the budget cuts that had stopped child care assistance for students, noting that Denver County eventually reinstated child care assistance for students. She stated that when cuts were made, people who were more likely to become self-sufficient were cut. She discussed a public meeting concerning the budget cuts, and Senator Sandoval noted that she attended the meeting that Ms. Davis was referring to. Senator Sandoval offered comments on the county's need to prioritize in order to balance the budget.
Senator Sandoval asked Ms. Rogers to provide additional detail on the unemployment rate in the Highlands neighborhood. Ms. Rogers indicated that she had been referring to her own neighbors, family, and friends. In response to Senator Sandoval's suggestion that the neighborhood economy seemed robust, Ms. Rogers noted that lifestyles are hard to change, and people still allocate a portion of their budgets towards socializing. Discussion continued between Senator Sandoval and Ms. Rogers regarding the unemployment rate of individuals over age 55.
Senator White asked Ms. Davis if her masters degree had enabled her to find employment and to reduce her need for public assistance. Ms. Davis answered that she is currently unemployed, as she had to quit her previous job in order to concentrate on her last semester of class and her thesis. She discussed the reduced funding for nonprofits. She noted that although two of her children have "aged out" of her care, her 18-year-old is struggling to find employment and she is supporting him. Senator White made additional comments.
In response to questions from Representative Kagan, Ms. Davis described the overwhelmed legal aid system and discussed steps she had taken in her experience with the court system and options available to provide assistance.
Senator Boyd addressed Ms. Peters' testimony regarding a method of bridging the "cliff effect." She noted that federal TANF rules provide one obstacle to changing the system. Representative Kefalas spoke about a method used in public housing programs to promote self-sufficiency by setting up an escrow account and freezing rent for the first year that an individual becomes employed. He expressed interest in learning if other programs could take similar steps.
Senator Hudak and Ms. Peters discussed the issue of teen parents who live with their parents and do not qualify for funding because of their status as a dependent. Senator Sandoval addressed Ms. Peters' testimony regarding the "cliff effect" and noted that federal legislation may prevent states from changing the current system, unless they are granted a waiver. Ms. Peters stated that she had been fortunate to find an employer who volunteered to help her transition off of public assistance; she discussed the possibility that corporations could set up internal programs to help their employees, rather than waiting for federal legislation.
Senator Scheffel addressed Ms. Rogers' testimony regarding cottage industries and applauded her attitude. He asked if she thought that people were inhibited from pursuing cottage industries because of regulation issues or because people have lost the skills themselves, or both. Ms. Rogers replied that it is a combination of both elements. She acknowledged that many regulations are based on common sense and safety concerns. She suggested that local food is more expensive than food from a corporation, and that corporations that price out entrepreneurs are barriers to self-sufficiency. She noted that the current recession has made people reevaluate measures of self-sufficiency and success.
Discussion continued between Ms. Davis and Ms. Rogers regarding homeowners' association (HOA) rules that prohibit small businesses. Senators Boyd and Sandoval addressed Ms. Rogers' testimony regarding the expense of local produce. Ms. Rogers made additional comments concerning processed food and food distribution issues. Ms. Peters discussed the possibility of bartering.
Ms. O'Donnell asked Ms. Peters for additional information regarding bartering. She discussed her experiences with the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. Representative Kefalas commented on his desire to learn more about measures of success. He discussed local economy movements and addressed barriers to home businesses.
Senator Sandoval remarked on the importance of corporate policies. She noted that Whole Foods buys from and encourages local producers, and added that King Soopers and other stores have elevated local products as well. She stated that corporate policies can help support local businesses, and consumers need to do their part also.
Representative Gagliardi and Ms. Reinsch discussed the number of paid sick days that would be ideal; previous legislation on the subject was included in the discussion. Representative Gagliardi commented on the practice of giving managers paid sick leave, but not other employees. Ms. Reinsch noted that she likes her managers, and some work longer hours, but others work the same number of hours as her and have more benefits and better pay overall. Ms. Reinsch stated that it was a moral issue to provide paid sick leave to everyone, and offered some statistics on the subject. Representative Gagliardi addressed Ms. Rogers' comments regarding cottage industries and local businesses, and discussed the importance of providing incentives to such businesses.
Senator Sandoval joined the discussion on paid sick leave. She discussed her experiences as an employer, and noted that small businesses may struggle with a mandate to provide paid sick leave. She indicated that such a mandate may mean the difference between being able to employ ten people and having to close. She also pointed out that managers are generally paid on salary, and therefore have to work until the work is done, even if it is longer than a 40-hour workweek. Senator Sandoval addressed the needs of hourly employees, and stated that any legislation providing paid sick leave for all employees should be analyzed to ensure that small businesses owners are not inadvertently affected, which could put even more people out of work. Ms. Reinsch said she agreed with Senator Sandoval's assessment, and commented that legislation introduced in the 2009 session only addressed certain businesses.
Representative Kefalas expressed his appreciation for the panel's testimony and stated that the committee would take a brief recess.
11:20 AM -- Public Testimony
The committee reconvened. Members of the public were invited to testify. The following individuals testified before the committee:
11:21 AM -- Mr. Randle Loeb, representing himself and fathers, stated that fathers are almost always overlooked or excluded from the responsibilities of child care, but they are important aspects of children's lives. He acknowledged that there are certain situations where being without a father is better for the child, such as incidents involving abuse. Mr. Loeb spoke about his personal experiences with mental illness and divorce, and explained how these experiences affected his relationship with his children. He urged the task force to address how both parents can be intricately involved in their children's lives. Mr. Loeb made additional comments regarding child support and the responsibility to care for children.
Representative Summers thanked Mr. Loeb for his comments and stated that divorce is a very challenging subject. He said that every situation is different, but the most consistent factor in homeless youth is fatherlessness. Senator Sandoval commented that she has been contacted many times regarding policies that make it difficult for fathers to stay in their children's lives. She discussed the calculation of child support based on a father's gross income rather than the net income, and noted that it can sometimes be impossible for a father to live on what is left after child support payments have been deducted. Senator Sandoval expressed an interest in looking at the policies in place and seeing what can be done to help keep fathers and their families together. Representative Gagliardi thanked Mr. Loeb for his testimony, and Representative Kefalas expressed interest in learning more about fatherhood programs.
11:31 AM -- Mr. Rolf Kotar, representing the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition (CCDC), testified regarding individuals with multiple disabilities. He described his personal experiences as an individual with a mental disability and summarized the public assistance that he had applied for and received. He stated that he has worked for CCDC for twelve years. Responding to follow-up questions from Representative Kefalas, Mr. Kotar discussed the Aid to the Needy Disabled (AND) program, which provides temporary financial assistance for individuals who are waiting to receive Social Security benefits. Representative Kagan noted that the AND program is slated to be cut under Governor Ritter's August budget proposal. Representative Kefalas mentioned a rally to be held at lunch regarding the budget package.
11:36 AM -- Ms. Sherri Acosta, representing the Center for Work Education and Employment (CWEE), discussed her experiences with the CWEE program. She shared her personal experiences as the mother of five children and one stepdaughter and as a victim of domestic violence. She described how she found a job with the help of CWEE and other assistance programs. She suggested that Adams County services be used as a model for other counties, particularly its two-year post-TANF program. Ms. Acosta stated that the assistance she received from Adams County reduced the time she spent in the TANF program and reduced the "cliff effect." Senator Boyd thanked Ms. Acosta for pointing out that programs such as CWEE and other public-private partnerships already exist, and discussed the importance of being more effective at creating similar partnerships. Responding to questions from Representative Kagan, Ms. Acosta discussed her progression from CWEE to self-sufficiency classes to post-TANF programs. She stated that Adams County pays for a CWEE case manager to prove services to clients. Senator Sandoval discussed additional questions she would like to ask CWEE's director.
11:45 AM -- Ms. Pat Ratliff, representing Colorado Counties, Inc., discussed the "cliff effect" and its relationship to certain programs that are subject to the economy. She discussed eligibility requirements and waitlists for programs. She stated that all counties are trying to do more with less, and described the effect of budget cuts on assistance programs.
11:48 AM -- Ms. Sheryle Hutter, representing the Colorado Developmental Disabilities Council and CCDC, discussed the panel presentation and expressed her regret that it did not include testimony from any men. She said that poverty cannot be understood without discussing disability and senior citizens. She described the financial hardship for individuals on SSI, and she addressed the possibility that the AND program will be cut. She provided further comments on Medicaid buy-in programs and workers' compensation. Ms. Hutter expressed her support for Mr. Loeb's testimony regarding child support laws, and discussed methods of calculating child support. She responded to questions from Representative Summers regarding child support calculations.
11:53 AM -- Mr. Terry Ploski, representing himself, testified regarding the AND program. He discussed his experiences with an incurable neurological condition and described how Governor Ritter's proposed cuts to the AND program would affect him. He encouraged legislators to explore options to continue funding the AND program. He suggested that an electronic database could reduce the wait for SSI benefits, and discussed state expenditures on state employees. Mr. Ploski made additional suggestions concerning energy, water, and office costs, as well as the possibility of auctioning off state equipment. Senator Sandoval mentioned a recent article about four-day workweeks; she discussed the advantages and disadvantages of a four-day workweek and added that Colorado may already auction off some surplus equipment. Mr. Ploski addressed an earlier question from Representative Summers regarding child support calculations, and cited his experience as a divorce attorney. Representative Kagan commented on Mr. Ploski's proposal to offset AND cuts by speeding up SSI processing. Discussion continued.
12:06 PM -- Mr. Edward Berlin Germany, representing himself, testified regarding the experiences of ex-offenders. He described his experiences in prison, and stated that he had served 27 years due to three-strike laws. He addressed news reports concerning the early release of inmates, and summarized his experiences as an ex-offender during a recession. Mr. Germany said that ex-offenders have difficulties when applying for jobs; most ex-offenders would rather become productive members of society than return to prison, but they have trouble getting hired. He remarked that society does not seem to be prepared to handle ex-offenders. Representative Kefalas asked for suggestions that would help ex-offenders reintegrate into society. Mr. Germany described pre-release programs. Senator Sandoval thanked Mr. Germany for his testimony and described problems caused for ex-offenders who try to hold down a job but have to take a class in the middle of the day or wait for an appointment with a parole officer. Mr. Germany agreed with her comments and noted that ex-offenders have to pay for many of their requirements. He indicated that he shared his experiences in order to help everyone understand the problems that will affect newly-released inmates.
12:16 PM -- Lunch Break
The committee recessed for lunch.
01:14 PM -- County Commissioners/Employers
The committee reconvened and listened to a panel presentation from county commissioners. The panel was charged with providing perspectives on statewide economic development and poverty reduction. The panelists introduced themselves.
01:17 PM -- Commissioner John Martin, Garfield County, introduced himself and described his background. He stated that poverty will be with us forever, but it is important to help those who want help and who will respond rather than those who choose to be in poverty and who use it as a means of economic gain. He said that there are too many opportunities to abuse the system. He described his grandparents' desire to succeed in spite of the Depression, and stated that such an attitude should be instilled in modern society. Commissioner Martin compared his grandparents' attitude to the "entitled" attitude of recent generations. He discussed the need to overcome people who live in poverty to abuse the system and people who live in poverty because they are too proud to ask for help. He described the Garfield County match program for Women, Infants, and Children program benefits, and differentiated between "hand-ups" and "hand-outs."
01:26 PM -- Commissioner Kathy Hartman, Jefferson County, introduced herself and described her background with the Jefferson County Self Sufficiency Program (STRIVE). Commissioner Hartman addressed Commissioner Martin's comments regarding people who abuse the system versus people who are too proud to use the system. She stated that poverty gets oversimplified in two directions: it is either viewed a systemic problem that can be fixed with more laws, or as a personal problem that has to do with poor personal choices. She argued that both views were oversimplifications, and said that she has rarely seen a situation that was not a combination of both poor choices and a bad system. Commissioner Hartman discussed the challenges of creating a culture that supports good decisions over bad decisions. She drew a distinction between people with the means to get out of poverty versus people without the means to get out of poverty, such as individuals who are disabled. She discussed the Jefferson County Sixty Month Committee, which looked at decisions to extend TANF benefits past five years for individuals who were disabled but who did not necessarily fit SSI definitions of disabled. She stated that efforts should be made help ensure that children who are born into low-income families are able to get out of poverty. Commissioner Hartman spoke about temporary benefits that can help individuals who are struggling with the economy. She stated that her experience had illustrated that education and a stable second parent in the family are the two biggest aids to getting people out of poverty, and noted that it is easier to help provide the former than the latter. Commissioner Hartman stressed the importance of the education and community college system.
01:35 PM -- Ms. Pat Ratliff, testifying on behalf of La Junta County Commissioner Jake Klein, described circumstances in La Junta County. She stated that La Junta County residents leave home because they are looking for more opportunities, even while La Junta County companies need workers. Ms. Ratliff noted that many of the people who stay in La Junta County to work cannot pass required drug tests, or cannot pass a test related to alcoholism.
01:37 PM -- Commissioner Dave Long, Weld County, described his past experience as a mental health professional. He stated that problems related to poverty often have to do with attitude, aptitude, and luck. As a health worker, he saw that it was successful to provide incentives to encourage people to find a support structure other than drugs and alcohol and to develop strategies to improve their quality of life. Commissioner Long addressed Ms. Ratliff's comments concerning people wanting to leave home. He stated that many Weld County residents get an education and then return to Weld County. He cited statistics regarding Weld County's high ratings for wage growth and primary job creation. He discussed a report regarding the reduction of the poverty rate in Weld County. Commissioner Long discussed strategies to provide economic opportunities, such as lower property taxes, less regulation, a charter limiting government growth to 5 percent, and a willingness to provide legal incentives to drop development fees for companies, such as a tax credit based on job creation. He specifically cited Weld County's success in attracting jobs in the energy sector. Commissioner Long noted that it can be difficult to find applicants who can pass drug and alcohol tests. He also explained that the agriculture industry has changed over time due to a decline in migrant workers and gas wells. He described a migrant Head Start program that has been discontinued due to lack of clientele.
Responding to questions from Senator White, Commissioner Martin stated that federal guidelines preclude the county from asking individuals who apply for emergency services if they are documented or undocumented. Discussion continued concerning federal guidelines, the percentage of applicants who do not speak English, and programs geared toward such applicants. Commissioner Martin provided data concerning the county's unemployment rate.
Ms. Ratliff shared additional comments related to fraud. She stated that fraud exists all over, and is a consequence of trying to make the system accessible to those who need help. She described a middle ground that provides benefits to individuals in need without creating too many obstacles to apply.
Senator Hudak discussed 32-page applications for benefits and the issue of department silos, and questioned whether benefits were accessible enough for those in need. Commissioner Hartman stated that the program with the greatest amount of fraud is the Unemployment Insurance program, as it is easy for an individual to prove that he or she is looking for work. She said that counties are caught between a rock and a hard place due to federal guidelines regarding timeliness and proof and the fact that many people applying for benefits do not have all their paperwork in order. Commissioner Hartman indicated that fraud is less of a problem for Jefferson County than the need to process benefits on time. She addressed the increase in applications that occurred when fuel prices went up. She said that, short of funding more fraud investigators, there is little that the state can do to address fraud without creating worse conditions for the counties.
Representative Gagliardi discussed the mission of the task force and its focus on the poorest of the poor. She stated that while abuse is an issue, it is important to help families and children in need. She addressed Commissioner Martin's comments regarding personal responsibility and described the need to reach out to individuals who need help.
Representative Kefalas joined the discussion on fraud, and clarified that in order to access food stamps or other state services, an individual needs to provide proper documentation. Discussion continued among Representative Kefalas, Ms. Ratliff, and Commissioner Martin regarding past legislation concerning proper documentation and differentiating between fraud by illegal immigrants and fraud by American citizens who manipulate the system.
Senator Sandoval noted that individuals who only deal in cash may be enabled by an employer. Discussion continued among Commissioner Martin and Ms. Ratliff. Ms. Ratliff commented that Commissioner Martin had been making a distinction between personality types, rather than citing fraud as a primary problem. Senator White and Commissioner Martin discussed companies who employ on a cash-only basis and underbid legitimate businesses. Commissioner Martin commented on individuals who are taken care of by the community rather than by the system of public assistance.
Senator Sandoval remarked that lower-income individuals may use cash because they do not have bank accounts. She asked Commissioner Long to discuss whether lower taxes negatively affected Weld County. Commissioner Long discussed various aspects of Weld County's budget, and cited its success in junior colleges and its workforce development team. Commissioner Hartman contrasted businesses in Weld County to those in Jefferson County. She discussed the challenges to Jefferson County's growth. She emphasized that all counties were different and had very different economic bases and issues. She said it was important to focus on the common denominator of helping people get out of poverty.
Responding to questions from Representative Kefalas, Commissioner Long discussed strategies for targeting individuals to receive proper training for available jobs. Commissioner Long described the assessment process at workforce development centers, and noted that the centers direct individuals towards jobs that fit their interests and will promote self-sufficiency. Discussion continued concerning Weld County's declining poverty rate and its reduced need for migrant workers. Commissioner Martin shared additional comments regarding job training at correctional facilities.
Representative Kagan expressed his concern with the focus on fraud over access to benefits and well-paying jobs. Commissioner Martin noted that governments need to work together, and it is important for the state government to understand the circumstances of local governments and to allow them to do a better job with less bureaucracy. Senator White noted that individuals who defraud the system take resources away from those in need.
Commissioner Hartman addressed an earlier question about targeting individuals to receive proper training for available jobs. She remarked that most individuals have only seen a small portion of the labor market. She stated that local governments should identify aptitude and interests and direct individuals towards parts of the labor market with which they may be unfamiliar. She noted that education is the one variable that local governments have less control over than the state, and that it is the number one predictor for being in poverty. She emphasized the importance of finding meaningful educational and re-educational strategies to help individuals find jobs.
The committee took a brief recess.
02:43 PM -- Workforce Development/Employer Best Practices
The committee reconvened and heard a panel presentation on the topic of workforce development/employer best practices. Panelists consisted of employers who shared their experiences in terms of best practices and business models to support employees. The panelists introduced themselves.
02:47 PM -- Ms. Liddy Romero, representing the Jefferson County Workforce Center, discussed the center's use of the Source Model, which was developed in Grand Rapids, Michigan to enhance self-sufficiency and public/private partnerships. She described the model and explained that two of the seven employer participants in the Jefferson County program were present to share their experiences. Ms. Romero discussed the challenges facing low-income workers and talked about "Bridges Out of Poverty" training, which teaches employers to understand the consequences of generational poverty in the workplace.
02:51 PM -- Ms. Jennifer Barnes, Human Resources Manager for the Kong Company in Golden, Colorado, discussed her business's participation in the Source Model. She noted that business and home life are not always separate, and personal issues may flow into the work environment. She said that most employees assume that an employer will not be able to assist them when they have a personal issue, but that communication may in fact lead to solutions for employee issues. Ms. Barnes gave an example of an injured employee who had not attended any follow-up appointments to treat his injury. Upon discussing the issue with the employee, the employer learned that the individual was concerned about past medical debts and could not afford the co-pay. She noted that the Source Model allows a company to help provide long-term support for employees, and encouraged other counties to consider the model.
02:54 PM -- Ms. Colleen True, Human Resources Director for Loveland Ski Area, discussed her business's participation in the Source Model. She addressed the effect of personal issues on work performance. Ms. True stated that the Source Model provides long-term support models to allow the employer to reach out more than would otherwise be possible.
02:57 PM -- Ms. Robin Kniech, Program Director and Staff Attorney for FRESC: Good Jobs, Strong Communities, introduced herself and described her organization. She explained that FRESC focuses on the nexus between the public and private sectors, and is concerned with connecting economic development to the creation of good jobs. She discussed states with prevailing wage policies or policies requiring employers seeking economic assistance to provide health care to their employees. Ms. Kniech discussed the competitive bid process to do business with the state and emphasized the importance of including poverty reduction as one of the criteria on which to select employers. She addressed the importance of training workers for future jobs such as green technology and discussed the importance of apprenticeship programs and local hiring. She remarked on the importance of using existing resources more widely to meet multiple goals.
03:03 PM -- Mr. Larry Lawrence, representing Colorado Building and Trade Apprenticeship Programs, stated that construction careers have been a way out of poverty for years. He discussed training and benefits given to apprentices and spoke about agreements between unions and contractors. He stated that the statewide graduation rate for apprenticeship programs is 78 percent. He explained that child care can be a challenge for construction workers, who may work hours that do not match up with the hours of operation at child care centers. He discussed assistance provided by counties such as Adams County under the Goodwill Model. Mr. Lawrence explained that the program coordinates with statewide workforce centers to provide training in job and time management. He described the sense of pride among program members, and provided an informational brochure to the members of the committee (Attachment A).
03:11 PM -- Mr. Dave Kenney, Chief Executive Officer for Efficient Forms, discussed his business. He said that Efficient Forms started in 2004 aiming to be "TurboTax for everything else," and is mainly used in human resources and government sectors. He discussed Seamless Compassion, a web-based software platform that limits paperwork and ambiguity in the benefits application process. Mr. Kenney described the company's success in helping agencies streamline their application programs.
03:20 PM -- Ms. Jenny Briggs, Human Resources Director for New Belgium Brewing Company, described her company. She discussed New Belgium's "Best Places to Work For" awards, and spoke about employee benefits and the work environment. She emphasized that employees who are happy and healthy are productive, and she discussed training programs that ensure that all employees know how to communicate with each other.
Representative Kagan asked Mr. Lawrence why an ex-felon is given an apprenticeship paying $30 an hour when there is so much widespread unemployment. Mr. Lawrence responded that many people do not like doing construction work, but ex-felons, who are not given many other opportunities, appreciate the chance to work and to earn good wages. He discussed his personal experience as an ex-felon and as a member of the State Board of Corrections. He said that most ex-felons want to make their lives better, and that construction work in general has become more professional. Mr. Lawrence noted that ex-felons cannot work on all jobs, but contractors are generally willing to transfer them to different jobs; overall, Mr. Lawrence indicated that he has had a good success rate with ex-felons in the program.
Senator Sandoval asked Mr. Lawrence about the percentage of women in the apprenticeship program. Mr. Lawrence explained that the percentage of women depends on the specific kind of work involved--i.e. more women train to be electricians than iron or sheet metal workers. Ms. Kniech remarked that all apprenticeship programs register with the U.S. Office of Apprenticeship and Training, which requires the program to establish recruitment goals concerning women and people of color. The office monitors each program annually to ensure that these goals are met. Representative Kagan asked for additional detail on recruitment strategies, including recruitment among high school students. Mr. Lawrence stated that 38 percent of the members of his programs are people of color, which exceeds the 30 percent goal that had been set with the Office of Apprenticeship and Training; he cited his focus on outreach as one reason why the goal has been exceeded. Responding to further questions from Representative Kagan, Mr. Lawrence described organizations that help provide information to persons interested in apprenticeship, and discussed partnerships aimed at increasing high school student awareness. Responding to questions from Representative Summers, Mr. Lawrence stated that the graduation rate of the program is 78 percent, and that individuals who do not graduate either do not show up for work or school or cannot pass the drug test.
Senator Hudak and Ms. True discussed the effect that changing the school year would have on resort employment and employment in the hospitality field in general.
Senator Sandoval asked Mr. Kenney for additional detail concerning Seamless Compassion. Mr. Kenney described past negotiations with the state concerning ways to make the food stamp application process more accessible. He indicated that the state had not used his company's suggestions, but Larimer County had with the help of a grant. He responded to additional questions from the committee.
Representative Kefalas asked why employers would choose to use the Source Model. Ms. Romero stated that individual employers may not be as strong as a group of employers, who are able to leverage the resources of government funds, nonprofit funds, and employer funds towards training programs. Ms. Romero indicated that the model focuses on current employees and ways to make them more productive. Ms. True added that absenteeism is a very prevalent issue, and it is helpful to have a case worker address the issue before it spirals out of control. Ms. True noted that an employer cannot personally address the problems of every employee, whereas the Source Model can provide a case worker to develop a personal relationship and enable the employee to resolve their problem quickly and confidentially. Responding to questions from Representative Kefalas, Ms. Romero described how employers became involved in the Source Model and discussed methods of evaluating success. She noted that the program is currently in a pilot period, but that they are working towards developing ideas for long-term revenue streams and ways to track time usage.
Representative Kefalas asked Ms. Briggs to discuss New Belgium's ability to grow as a business while also providing a variety of employee benefits. Ms. Briggs differentiated between short-term and long-term views of business success, and stated that investing in people brings success over the long term. She explained how the environment at New Belgium encourages its employees to work more, to give back to the company, and to have a low turnover rate. Discussion continued between Representative Kefalas and Ms. Briggs regarding the concept of a "triple bottom line," and visionary versus annual plans. Ms. Briggs remarked that letting people balance their work and their life is a key to success. Ms. Briggs responded to further questions from Senator Sandoval regarding employee ownership of the company.
03:59 PM -- Closing Remarks
Representative Kefalas made closing remarks. The committee adjourned.