Gov. Jared Polis signs several bills advancing health, early childhood and family economic security priorities
In recent weeks Gov. Polis signed several Children’s Campaign priority bills that advance investments in children’s health and early childhood development and family economic security.
On Monday, at Lake Dillon Theater in Silverthorne, Gov. Polis celebrated three health-related bills supported by the Children’s Campaign this legislative session.
- SB 20-215 (Moreno & Donovan/Kennedy & McCluskie) Health Insurance Affordability Act: The Colorado Children’s Campaign was one of the organizations that led the policy development for SB20-215, and the communications and advocacy that secured its passage. This law establishes new health insurance coverage pathways for people who have been left out of health reform, including Coloradans without proper documentation and people caught in the “family glitch.” It also establishes state premium assistance to improve the purchasing power of people with moderate incomes on the Exchange, helping them purchase plans with lower deductibles that better meet their physical and behavioral health needs and helping reduce the uninsured rate for Coloradans with incomes between 200 and 300 percent of poverty, who are most likely to lack health coverage in Colorado. Lastly, the bill extends Colorado’s successful reinsurance program, which reduced premiums in the individual market by an average of 20 percent its first year. This law will improve the affordability of health insurance coverage for more than 100,000 Coloradans and make coverage newly available to thousands of our friends, neighbors and family members.
- HB20-1236 (Lontine & Will/Tate & Bridges) Health Care Coverage Easy Enrollment Program: The Children’s Campaign testified in support of HB20-1236, because it will make it easier for Coloradans to enroll in health insurance coverage based on the data they include in their tax return.
- SB20-212 (Lontine & Soper/Winter & Tate) Reimbursement for Telehealth Services: The Children’s Campaign also supported SB20-212 because it will make it easier for families to access the health care services they need remotely (including physical and occupational therapy) by removing barriers to care such as transportation and the need for child care.
On Wednesday, Gov. Polis signed four early childhood bills at Plum Hill Preschool in Denver:
- HB 20-1427 (Caraveo & McCluskie/Fields & Moreno) Tobacco & Nicotine Tax to address education budget shortfalls, housing, and preschool access: Refers a measure to voters that would, if approved at the November 2020 election, phases in higher rates of taxation on tobacco products over the next ten years and institutes a tax on liquid nicotine (vaping) for the first time and increases the rate over ten years. These policies have some of the strongest evidence base for reducing tobacco and nicotine use among pregnant people and youth. Beginning in fall of 2023, the bill would create universal access to preschool for all children the year prior to kindergarten entry and additional preschool program for those facing the greatest barriers to opportunity. Our estimates are this would create a dedicated funding stream that would exceed $1.5 billion for preschool over the first 8 years (how long we have cost models for) of operation beginning in 2023. You can learn more here and endorse the measure here.
- HB 20-1053 (Sirota & Wilson/Story & Pettersen) Supports for the Early Childhood Workforce: In its final version, combined elements of three Early Childhood and School Readiness Legislative Commission bills (HB 1053, HB 1006, & HB 1016) and eliminated elements of the bills that drove costs. As amended, this bill will:
- Support child care programs that are reopening to serve children and families. Child care providers stepped up to care for children during the height of the crisis to make sure our emergency and essential workforce could get to work. These programs were already facing a crisis in recruiting and retaining educators so that they can provide child care so parents can work before the crisis. With the components of HB 20-1053 retained in the bill, we can streamline pathways to the classroom, including alternative routes to the profession, and reduce burdens paperwork on our early care and education providers. (HB 20-1053)
- Support programs in responding to a spike in early childhood mental health needs we are seeing as a result of the crisis. The economic and health trauma of this crisis, the disruption to children’s learning, and the mental health challenges parents of young children are facing are all resulting in a need for a more efficient alignment of programs supporting young children’s behavioral health needs. (HB 20-1006)
- Support greater flexibility for the 34 statewide Early Childhood Councils and the state Office of Early Childhood in supporting quality, responsive programming for all programs and educators regardless of their level of quality. (HB 20-1016)
- SB 20-126 (Story & Smallwood/Roberts & Van Winkle) Allow Home Child Care In Homeowners’ Association Community: The bill limits the grounds under which a homeowner’s association can restrict the operation of family child care, addressing one of the major barriers to creating greater access to family child care which will be as essential as ever in providing care options for working families right now.
- HB 20-1347 (Young & Jaquez Lewis/Danielson & Hansen) Licensure Exemption For Family Child Care Homes: This bill extends the licensing exemption allowing for providers to care for no more than 4 unrelated children (no more than 2 under the age of 2) until 2026 but adds specific requirements for the providers and the state including (1) required notification of the parents of children in care that the caregiver is not licensed and that the state has not verified the health and safety of the setting or performed background checks on anyone in the residence, (2) reporting by the state regarding complaints filed against those claiming this exemption as well as cease-and-desist orders for those operating under these exemptions, and (3) posting of information for these providers on pathways to becoming licensed.
Last week, Gov. Polis also signed SB20-029 (Fields & Moreno/Duran & Coleman) Cost of Living Adjustment for Colorado Works Program. The Children’s Campaign worked alongside the Colorado Center on Law and Policy and a strong coalition of advocates to amend this bill to respond to the economic crisis faced by both the state and Colorado families as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill as amended ensures that every family enrolled in the Colorado Works Program (the state’s TANF program) will receive a $500 one-time, immediate supplemental payment. Families enrolled in Colorado Works are experiencing extreme poverty, and this additional money will help meet their basic needs, including formula, diapers, school supplies, and bus passes.
A diverse coalition of advocates, a bipartisan group of sponsors, and community leaders coalesced around these priorities during the abbreviated session and we look forward to supporting implementation and building on this progress in the months ahead.