ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY POVERTY REDUCTION TASK FORCE
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11:30 AM -- Public Testimony
The committee reconvened for public testimony. The following individuals testified before the committee:
11:30 AM -- Mr. Randle Loeb, representing himself, discussed his experience on various councils and committees concerned with homelessness and expressed his concern that the committee was still not focusing on the most important issues affecting homeless individuals. He shared a handout with the members of the committee titled Denver's Ten-Year Plan to End Homelessness (Attachment D). He stated that government cannot solve homelessness, and indicated the significance of collaboration across the community. Mr. Loeb addressed recent reports indicating that the homeless rate has risen and distributed an executive summary of one such report (Attachment E). Mr. Loeb responded to questions from Representative Gagliardi concerning the agencies that he had discussed.
11:38 AM -- Ms. B.J. Iacino, representing the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, distributed a fact sheet on the Aid to the Needy Disabled (AND) program, prepared by the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless (Attachment F). She discussed the AND program and the possible effects of budget cuts on the program. She suggested that some of the potential solutions that have been proposed will not work, and explained that other safety net programs will be limited in their ability to help individuals who will be affected by the budget cuts. Ms. Iacino stated that the Low-income Energy Assistance program will not help such individuals either since it is a federal program and only operates for part of the year. She encouraged the members of the committee to question the position of state officials who provide information on what will mitigate the impact of AND cuts, as some of the proposed solutions may not truly be viable. She suggested that an economic analysis be conducted concerning the cuts to the AND program.
Representative Kagan asked for additional information concerning the AND program and its eligibility guidelines. Ms. Iacino discussed the different populations addressed by federal and state guidelines. Representative Gagliardi asked for information about the wait time to qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and the issues involved with Colorado Benefits Management System (CBMS) expenditures. Ms. Iacino indicated that she was not able to address issues related to CBMS. She provided information concerning reasons for the wait time to qualify for SSI, such as staffing issues and the effects of the budget cuts. She recommended that the system be improved before cutting benefits for individuals, and suggested that cuts would cost taxpayers more overall.
Representative Kefalas discussed budget cuts and Governor Ritter's indications that the process to apply for SSI will be expedited. He asked the Interagency Council on Homelessness and other advocates to advise how to speed up the process and think of other ways to make up for the budget downturn. Senator Boyd made additional comments concerning the federal reimbursement rate for state expenditures. Discussion continued.
11:52 AM -- Ms. Sheryle Hutter, representing the Equal Justice Foundation and the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition, stated that she would write the committee with questions and suggestions that had been prompted by the day's presentation. She indicated that it was important to discuss consumer impacts. Representative Kefalas noted that the task force is only in its first year and there will be additional opportunities to address concerns.
11:54 AM -- Mr. Jared Kohn, representing himself, discussed his experience as a laid-off worker. He stated that he used to work for an oil and gas company and that he thought his job had been secure. He said that he has been unemployed for eight months. Mr. Kohn described his employment history and his experience applying for a new job. He indicated that some jobs offered a good rate of pay but no benefits or time off, and he explained that he had lost his unemployment benefits because he had taken a job that did not provide benefits. He stated that he is currently exploring ways to return to school and to get retrained. He discussed his experience exploring the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) program, and he described his struggles trying to navigate the system. Mr. Kohn said that he is now exploring ways in which he could use his skills as an entrepreneur and he would appreciate government efforts that provide training or assistance to small businesses. Representative Kefalas expressed his desire to discuss Mr. Kohn's options further after the meeting. Representative Waller indicated that he would also like to speak to Mr. Kohn after the meeting.
12:02 PM -- Mr. Rich Jones, representing the Bell Policy Center, described his organization and discussed recommendations that the Bell Policy Center has made in the past related to micro-enterprises.
12:05 PM -- Ms. Corrine Fowler, representing the Economic Justice Campaign within the Colorado Progressive Coalition, offered comments on poverty reduction. She stated that Colorado residents deserve access to short-term, low-interest loans, but Colorado law does not limit interest rates charged by payday lending companies. She described the costs incurred by low-income individuals who use payday lending companies and discussed past legislation related to interest rates. She urged the task force to address interest rate limits.
12:09 PM -- Mr. Richard Eidlin, representing the Progress Group, discussed a project called "The Greater Good." Committee members received a briefing sheet on the project (Attachment G). He described the concept of a "triple bottom line." He discussed the engagement of private investment for community-based projects. Mr. Eidlin described the planned launch of the new project.
12:12 PM -- Mr. Alan Duran, representing himself, indicated that he was representing homeless individuals who must camp out. He discussed reasons why homeless individuals may camp out rather than staying in shelters. He described problems for individuals who camp out, such as the need to carry around their belongings and running the risk of being kicked off of a campground. He expressed his belief that the city should not confiscate the belongings of homeless individuals. Mr. Duran stated that individuals who camp out are unable to shower, which creates issues for homeless individuals who try to find jobs. Mr. Duran responded to questions from Senator Boyd regarding sites available for showering. Representative Kefalas discussed the Denver Road Home program and its concern with access to housing. He asked if there are barriers that prevent Mr. Duran from getting off the street. Mr. Duran responded that it is frustrating to look for resources for an extended amount of time, and it is sometimes easier to just give up and camp out. Representative Kefalas asked if it would help to have a case worker or mentor to help individuals navigate the system, and Mr. Duran indicated that such a program would be helpful, especially if the case worker had experienced homelessness before. Mr. Duran explained frustrations that he experiences as a homeless man and as a veteran.
The committee recessed for lunch.