Colorado State Human Services Board increases assistance for low-income families for first time in nearly a decade
Last Friday, after five hours of deliberation and testimony, the State Human Services Board voted to increase cash assistance to low income families by 10 percent! This was the first increase in basic cash assistance in more than a decade and is a huge win for low-income families participating in the Colorado Works program.
The Colorado Children’s Campaign drafted a letter in support of this increase and our President and CEO, Kelly Causey, testified in support of the change at the meeting last Friday. The increase will become effective on Sept. 1, 2018. The maximum cash assistance amount is currently $462 a month for a household with one adult and two children, and the vote on Friday will increase this amount by $46 per month.
While costs of living in many communities have skyrocketed in recent years (Colorado’s median rent increased 42 percent between 2011 and 2016), the cash assistance amount has not been increased in nearly a decade, leaving many families behind. As necessities like housing become more expensive, it is becoming harder for families to stretch their dollars far enough to meet the needs of their kids.
Basic cash assistance is important to families because of its flexibility. It is one of the few resources that can be used to meet needs not covered by other programs. Several families who use the program testified in favor of the increase last week. Families who use the program have stated that they will use the increase on gas or bus passes, diapers and wipes, phone bills, sports fees, school pictures and maybe even a fall trip to the zoo.
The toxic levels of stress that often accompany poverty have lifelong impacts on Colorado’s kids. Decades of research show that children who experience poverty are at higher risk for health problems, more likely to start school at a disadvantage, less likely to graduate high school on time and more likely to live in poverty as an adult due to the lack of resources they experience during childhood. Research also shows, however, that boosting the income of low-income families with children and pregnant women through these types of policy changes improves child outcomes. Supplemental income support is associated with higher birthweights and better academic performance among children, and these benefits persist into adulthood.
Recognizing the importance of economic security to child well-being, this fall, through the Children’s Campaign strategic planning process, our Board of Directors added a “true north” goal guiding us to work to ensure all Colorado children are economically secure. We commend the State Board of Human Services for taking this step to support this goal and to support Colorado families.