STAFF SUMMARY OF MEETING
ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY POVERTY REDUCTION TASK FORCE
|Time:||09:09 AM to 01:32 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:|
American Community Survey Census Poverty Data
Invest in Kids and Nurse-Family Partnership
Discussion of Bill Drafts and Proposed Amendments
Committee Discussion on Additional Topics
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
09:10 AM -- Opening Remarks
The task force was called to order. Representative Kefalas, chair, made opening remarks and discussed the agenda for the day's meeting.
09:12 AM -- American Community Survey Census Poverty Data
Ms. Kate Watkins, Legislative Council Staff, and Ms. Lisa Piscopo, Colorado Children's Campaign (CCC), discussed American Community Survey (ACS) data. Ms. Watkins discussed the methodology of the ACS, which is conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau. She explained that the ACS is based on a period of time, rather than on one point in time, like the decennial census.
Ms. Piscopo presented an updated map of national poverty rates. She said that Colorado's poverty rate is still below the national average. She noted that the ACS is used to calculate the federal poverty guidelines. Ms. Piscopo commented on Colorado's growing rate of children living in poverty. She said that Colorado's rate of increase is the highest in the country, followed by Nevada. She pointed out that neighboring states do not show the same trend.
Ms. Piscopo discussed county-level poverty data. She made a distinction between the number of people in poverty and the poverty rate in each county. Ms. Piscopo described county-level data on children living in poverty and discussed the significance of the impact of poverty on children. Ms. Piscopo said that her presentation used poverty data from before the recession, since new data is not yet available. She presented a chart on the Colorado unemployment rate from 1999-2009 to illustrate what period of time is not covered by the most current poverty data. She noted that poverty is not equally distributed across Colorado. She offered conclusions on poverty trends in Colorado.
Representative Summers asked if any analysis had been done to discover reasons for Colorado's poverty trends. Ms. Piscopo discussed the analysis that CCC has done so far. She offered some examples of reasons for statewide variation, and indicated that the trends seem to be linked to overall economic issues. She noted that CCC will soon be releasing a report addressing fiscal policies and social service programs in Colorado compared to other states.
Representative Kagan asked if the task force is at the mercy of the economy in terms of its ability to reduce poverty. Ms. Piscopo responded that bad economic times make it more difficult to reduce poverty, but argued that progress is still possible. Representative Gagliardi asked if data existed related to the impact of free lunch and breakfast programs on poverty rates. She also asked for information concerning the use of food banks in Colorado. Ms. Piscopo noted that there are two components to poverty programs: some programs, such as free lunch and breakfast programs, mitigate the impacts of poverty, whereas other programs reduce the number of individuals living in poverty. Responding to follow-up questions from Representative Kefalas, Ms. Piscopo indicated that studies on free lunch and breakfast programs exist, but she does not have data regarding food banks.
Representative Kefalas asked for additional detail on the map of national poverty rates. He expressed an interest in learning about states that were able to reduce certain poverty rates, such as the rate of single-parent families living in poverty. Ms. Piscopo explained certain aspects of the statistical measures used to create the maps and discussed a reduction in child poverty in New Mexico. She noted that New Mexico has a higher base rate of child poverty, and stated that its different tax policies influence its ability to spend money on poverty programs. Ms. Watkins provided further detail concerning poverty rate calculations. Representative Kefalas shared additional comments related to poverty measures.
09:41 AM -- Invest in Kids and Nurse-Family Partnership
Ms. Lisa Merlino, Executive Director, Invest in Kids, presented information on best practices related to the Nurse-Family Partnership, which is also known as the Nurse Home Visitor Program. She distributed a packet of information to the committee (Attachment A). She provided background information on the Nurse-Family Partnership. She discussed information related to child brain development and described the program's goals and its components. She noted the significance of using nurses and provided an overview of the home visit process.
Ms. Merlino offered comments on evidence-based policy and provided detail on the outcomes that had been observed from the program trials. She discussed data related to: academic achievement; language development; days of hospitalization; months between births; months receiving welfare assistance; and months receiving food stamps.
Ms. Merlino discussed the cost-effectiveness of the Nurse-Family Partnership. She identified the partners involved in the program and provided demographic characteristics related to the program's clientele. She provided data related to Colorado's outcomes, particularly outcomes concerning: full-term babies; immunization rates; breast feeding rates; cigarette and drug use; and education for mothers.
Representative Summers asked for additional information related to areas without a program. Ms. Merlino noted that the program is voluntary for communities and for clients. She said that some communities have very few first-time births and programs are generally prioritized based on the population served. She discussed a loss of expansion money funding for the program.
Senator Hudak asked for more detail related to the correlation between the communities with a program and the locations of early childhood councils. Ms. Merlino discussed the development of the program and its collaboration with the councils. Representative Kagan asked for information concerning the use of statistics related to program data and how those statistics may be influenced by the voluntary nature of program participation. Ms. Merlino discussed the randomization of the program trials and noted the importance of voluntary participation and the difficulties involved in keeping women engaged in the program over time. She agreed that women in the program were open to change, but stated that the voluntary nature of the program is an important aspect of its focus on self-empowerment. Representative Kagan expressed his concern that the evidence for the efficacy of the program is skewed because the population consists of women who have already volunteered to be a better mother. Ms. Merlino indicated that she would pose the question to Dr. David Olds, the founder of the Nurse-Family Partnership, who would be able to provide additional information. She noted that the women weren't necessarily seeking these services out on their own, but may find out about the program due to their participation in other programs or clinics.
Representative Waller asked for information on the retention rate of the program. Ms. Merlino said that women participate in the program for an average of 20 months. She stated that 60 percent of the participants drop out of the program before their child is two years old. She noted that most of Colorado's attrition is due to moving out of a service area. She discussed how the attrition rate affects the trial outcomes. Discussion continued between Ms. Merlino and Representative Waller.
Representative Kefalas asked if the Nurse Home Visitor Program would have the ability to analyze the population of eligible women not receiving services and conduct an economic model of the impact on Colorado's economy and poverty rate if those women were enrolled in the program. Ms. Merlino provided initial information, but noted that the program is voluntary, and an analysis of the program relies on a formula to predict how many women would volunteer. She noted that data from Pennsylvania provides some information, and partners in Colorado have discussed the possibility of a retroactive analysis. Discussion continued.
10:14 AM -- Discussion of Bill Drafts and Proposed Amendments
Representative Kefalas described the format for the discussion of bill drafts and proposed amendments. He noted that members of the public had signed up to participate in the discussion, and explained that no final action on the bills will be taken today. Responding to questions from Senator Boyd, Representative Kefalas provided additional clarification on the process for requesting amendments prior to next week's meeting.
Representative Kefalas described Bill Number 1 (Attachment B). The bill concerns making an Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) a first priority Taxpayer's Bill of Rights (TABOR) refund method. Representative Kefalas distributed a brochure concerning tax credits (Attachment C). He responded to questions from Representative Summers regarding the EITC, Referendum C, and TABOR. Ms. Kate Watkins, Legislative Council Staff, came to the table to provide additional detail related to the trigger for an income tax rate reduction.
10:23 AM -- Ms. Chaer Robert, representing the EITC Coalition, testified regarding Bill Number 1. She distributed a pamphlet of information on the EITC (Attachment D). She discussed the background of Colorado's EITC and expressed support for making the EITC the number one TABOR refund priority. Ms. Robert responded to questions from Senator White related to the funding source for the Piton Foundation, the publisher of the EITC pamphlet. Responding to questions from Representative Gagliardi concerning EITC data, Ms. Robert referred to information available in the pamphlet.
Representative Waller discussed Bill Number 2, which concerns employer liability related to hiring ex-offenders. He stated that a bill draft is not yet available, but will be available before next week's meeting.
Senator Boyd presented Bill Number 3, which concerns identification documents (Attachment E). She distributed a draft of a legislative declaration (Attachment F). Senator Boyd described how the bill would affect identification document fees for individuals who have a letter of referral from a county department. She also discussed a section of the bill related to name changes. Responding to questions from Representative Gagliardi, Mr. Jerry Barry, Office of Legislative Legal Services (OLLS), provided clarification on the language of the bill.
Representative Kefalas summarized the problem the bill tries to address and its methods for doing so. Mr. Barry explained the bill's language related to the court's discretion for allowing a convicted felon to request a name change. Representative Kagan and Senator Boyd discussed whether the bill would contain a safety clause. Senator Boyd asked for clarification regarding whether bill drafts will be changed between this meeting and next week's meeting. Mr. Barry responded that the chair may decide how to proceed.
Senator Boyd presented Bill Number 4 (Attachment G). The bill would authorize the Department of Human Services to use a portion of existing appropriations to conduct an independent evaluation of the Statewide Strategic Use Fund (SSUF). Senator White asked for a dollar estimate of the funds that would be used for the evaluation.
10:50 AM -- Mr. Bill Hanna, representing the Department of Human Services (DHS), testified in favor of the bill. Responding to Senator White's question, he stated that the bill would allow up to 2 percent of the moneys annually allocated to the SSUF to contract for the evaluation, and that the amount would total approximately $200,000. Mr. Hanna responded to additional questions from Representative Kefalas concerning the use of funds. Discussion continued concerning evaluative methods related to the use of SSUF moneys.
Representative Gagliardi expressed her concern that this kind of evaluation is already being done, or should already have been done. Mr. Hanna explained that the original bill creating the SSUF did not provide for an evaluative process. Representative Gagliardi asked if it was necessary to have legislation to carry out an evaluation. Mr. Hanna explained that the law currently only allows for specific uses of the SSUF moneys. Senator Sandoval described previous discussions with the departments related to how grants are evaluated.
Senator Hudak asked for clarification on the uses of the SSUF moneys. Senator Boyd commented on the use of an independent firm to conduct the evaluation. Senator Sandoval noted that the Colorado Works Program is evaluated by an independent firm.
Representative Summers presented Bill Number 5 (Attachment H). The bill concerns a state outreach plan related to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Brita Darling, OLLS, provided additional detail on the bill. Representative Kefalas distributed Amendment L.001 (Attachment I). He explained that the amendment extends the SNAP certification period to meet the maximum certification period allowable under federal law. He also described a conceptual amendment that concerns categorical eligibility and eliminates the asset test for food stamps; he indicated that this amendment would increase the gross income level for SNAP eligibility. Senator Hudak described how the bill relates to work being done by the Early Childhood Commission.
11:11 AM -- Mr. Hanna, DHS, returned to the table to address Bill Number 5. He introduced Ms. Pauline Burton, the SNAP supervisor for the DHS. Mr. Hanna addressed possible amendments to the bill and provided background information on the predicted benefits of the bill. Mr. Hanna also discussed the potential fiscal impact of the bill, and explained the department's position on the bill. Ms. Burton described the potential for recouping federal dollars based on the implementation of a SNAP outreach plan, and the department's roll-out of computer-based administration of the program. Mr. Hanna discussed the possibility of creating a SNAP outreach program without the passage of legislation, and the benefits of doing so.
Discussion ensued regarding the burdens placed on SNAP recipients in gaining reinstatement into the program when they are dropped from it, and the role that the Colorado Benefits Management System plays in creating these burdens. Discussion followed regarding the time frames for which SNAP recipients are certified to receive benefits. Discussion turned to the change in eligibility contemplated by Amendment L.001. Ms. Burton responded to questions regarding access points for applying for SNAP, and how these might be increased as a result of the bill.
Ms. Burton responded to questions regarding the need for legislation to create a SNAP outreach plan. Senator Hudak discussed connections between the work of the Early Childhood Commission and the SNAP eligibility period and discussed the importance of aligning eligibility periods. Discussion continued. Mr. Hanna responded to questions from Senator Boyd related to coinciding eligibility criteria across programs. He described a bill related to streamlining the Colorado Works Program.
Senator Sandoval asked for clarification regarding the SNAP application and review process. Mr. Burton stated that federal law mandates certain aspects of the review process. Representative Kefalas made additional comments.
11:41 AM -- Ms. Tara Trujillo, representing the Colorado Children's Campaign, addressed SNAP's eligibility guidelines. She stated that the asset test is problematic for families because it discourages them from saving. She discussed economic activity created through spending on SNAP.
11:45 AM -- Ms. Kathy Underhill, representing the Colorado Coalition to End Hunger, testified in support of Bill Number 5. Ms. Underhill said that Colorado is currently leaving millions of federal dollars on the table and overloading its counties with work; she indicated that the bill would help ease those problems. She provided statistics related to food stamp use. She described the success of outreach plans in other states. Ms. Underhill stated that longer certification periods would ensure that people do not fall through the cracks. She noted that the recession has increased the number of families needing to apply for support services, and stressed the importance of a simplified application process. She discussed data related to the return on investment in food stamp programs. She remarked that every issue the task force is concerned with is related to hunger.
Senator Sandoval presented Bill Number 6 (Attachment J). The bill gives the task force permission to develop poverty metrics to measure progress towards the task force's ultimate goal of reducing poverty by at least 50 percent by 2019.
Representative Kagan presented Bill Number 7 (Attachment K). The bill would authorize certain public entities to enter into voluntary agreements affecting rent on private residential property. Representative Kagan summarized current law relating to rent control agreements. He said the statute will continue to prohibit rent control except in voluntary agreements between developers and certain entities. Responding to questions from Representative Kefalas, Mr. Bob Lackner, OLLS, came to the table to clarify state law concerning rent control agreements.
Representative Summers asked for clarification regarding the transfer of the agreement to subsequent purchasers of the property. Representative Kagan stated that the bill gives the developers and entities the option to specify whether the agreement will apply to subsequent owners, but does not require the agreement to carry over. Representative Waller asked why a developer would ever want to enter into a voluntary agreement with an entity at a less than optimal price range. Representative Kagan discussed certain situations in which such an agreement might arise. Discussion continued. Mr. Lackner agreed with the scenarios that Representative Kagan had raised as possible applications of the bill and noted that mountain communities may have a use for such agreements. Representative Kefalas provided clarification on the definition of low-income workers within mountain communities and spoke about the effects that more available housing might have on I-70 traffic.
Representative Kagan addressed Representative Waller's concerns that the bill would provide a way around the rent control statute. He described the very specific circumstances in which the bill would apply to an individual development. He said that the bill does not allow a municipality to suddenly control rent.
Senator Hudak presented Bill Number 8 (Attachment L). She stated that the bill allows certain agencies and entities to participate in a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to provide multi-agency services. Senator Hudak noted that the bill does not mandate that any new members be added to collaboratives. She said that the bill expands the purview of the collaboratives to a P-20 scope. Senator Hudak discussed existing restrictions on the rights of certain members of a collaborative. She said that the bill would encourage collaboratives to broaden their scope to include a focus on poverty. Senator Boyd asked for information concerning departments and entities that have already entered into MOUs, and shared additional comments on the bill.
Representative Kagan asked for clarification concerning how membership on collaboratives is decided. Senator Hudak said that the collaborative decides its membership as a group. Senator Boyd remarked that the county would probably be the primary gatekeeper, since the county is the entity that enters into an MOU with the other group.
12:22 PM -- Mr. Mark Kling, representing the Family Resource Center Association, testified in support of efforts to provide wrap-around services for low-income families and children. He stated that efforts such as Bill Number 8 would be a good way to bring more parties to the table. He noted that the bill is permissive and does not make MOUs mandatory.
12:26 PM -- Committee Discussion on Additional Topics
Representative Kefalas announced that the remainder of the meeting would be devoted to committee discussion and testimony on two additional topics: funding for services for the developmentally disabled, and cuts to Senior Support Services. Representative Summers provided background on discussions from the Access to Benefits Subcommittee concerning the pursuit of federal match funding for county mill levy dollars in order to provide services for the developmentally disabled. He explained that the issue is more complicated than it appears, and he discussed applicable law regarding the issue.
Representative Kefalas described the format for the discussion and stated that members of the committee would have an opportunity to request a bill draft related to the issue. Representative Kefalas read aloud a letter from Mr. Denver C. Fox concerning the use of mill levy dollars to provide services for individuals with developmental disabilities. Representative Kefalas read a second letter from Mr. Edward Arnold on the same topic.
The following individuals testified regarding the issue:
12:41 PM -- Ms. Sheryle Hutter, representing herself, her family, and the disability community, distributed written comments to the committee (Attachment M). She testified in favor of legislation that would direct counties to pursue federal match funding for county mill levy dollars in order to provide services to the developmentally disabled. She noted that the intent of the action would not be to cut services, but to reduce the waiting list for services. She described problems with the lack of transparency in the funding process. Discussion continued between Ms. Hutter and Representative Kefalas. Representative Kefalas stated that he understands the rationale behind the proposal, but he has heard concerns that the mill levy dollars need to be used locally, and that there would be a danger that community centered boards (CCBs) would be restricted in the use of federally matched funds. He said that there are concerns about unintended consequences. Ms. Hutter stated that counties should have flexibility in their funding, but she argued that there should also be flexibility in the ability to find additional funding. Representative Kefalas noted that current law already permits the federal match to occur; he conceded that clean-up may be needed, but questioned whether additional legislation would be necessary. Ms. Hutter explained that the current statute says that counties "may" pursue federal funding rather than stating that they "shall" pursue such funding, and added that adequate disclosure policies are not in place.
12:53 PM -- Ms. Katherine Carol, representing her family and other families with children with developmental disabilities, introduced herself and described her experience with Denver Options. She stated that the current situation presented an opportunity for innovation. She described the support that her daughter, who has a developmental disability, has received. Ms. Carol noted that other states have been able to increase local funding and requested that the discussion be allowed to continue.
12:56 PM -- Mr. Timothy O'Neill, representing Foothills Gateway, Inc., a CCB, described his organization. He offered information concerning the potential consequences of legislation that would direct counties to pursue federal match funding for county mill levy dollars. He expressed his organization's support for innovative ways to provide more funding, but stated that it was important to understand the context of mill levies. Mr. O'Neill responded to questions from Representative Kefalas concerning accountability issues. He stated that documents are available but noted that his organization has received very few formal or informal requests for additional documentation. Mr. O'Neill discussed past experience seeking federal match funding and described issues related to restrictions on the use of federal match funds. He provided background information on reasons why the previous match funding program did not last.
Representative Kagan asked for further clarification on how federal match funding would destroy Foothills Gateway, Inc.'s ability to serve its clients. Mr. O'Neill stated that federal funds are not able to be used for certain programs, so a federal match of mill levy dollars would cut off existing programs. Discussion continued concerning the possibility of using separate pots of mill levy dollars, some of which would be matched and some of which would not be, thereby making some funds available for existing programs.
01:10 PM -- Ms. Julie Reiskin, representing the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition, distributed written testimony (Attachment N).
01:10 PM -- Dr. Stephen Block, representing Denver Options, Inc., a CCB, distributed written testimony and an attorney's letter concerning home rule counties (Attachments O and P, respectively). He discussed his organization's past experience with Medicaid match funding. He described the consequences that would result from such federal match funding. He said that federal restrictions, such as a prohibition on the use of Medicaid funds for administrative purposes, would prevent Denver Options from providing quality service. Representative Kefalas described the discrepancies between consumer and provider concerns. He asked if it would be possible to ensure that local mill levy dollars return to the county of origin. Dr. Block indicated that further study is needed. He also noted that Denver is a home rule county, which creates additional legal implications.
Representative Kagan asked if it would be possible to send a certain portion of funds to be federally matched for a specific purpose. Dr. Block explained that federal match funding would increase Denver Option's ability to provide services but would not be permitted to be spent hiring the staff or buying the equipment necessary to provide such services, which would be problematic. Representative Kefalas expressed his interest in exploring the issue further.
The committee opened discussion on the Denver Regional Council of Government's proposal to cut funding to Senior Support Services. Representative Kagan provided background information on the issue and distributed a related Denver Post article (Attachment Q). He proposed that the task force send a letter to the Denver Regional Council of Governments to inquire about the cut. He distributed a draft of the letter (Attachment R). Committee discussion ensued. Lacking a quorum, Representative Kefalas suggested that those members who would like to sign the letter could do so. Senator Boyd explained her reaction to the issue, and indicated that she would not be comfortable second-guessing the decisions of other public officials without more background information. Discussion continued concerning the purpose of the letter. Representative Kagan indicated that he will be rewriting the letter and will e-mail it to members of the task force.
The committee adjourned.