(Jan. 21) – House Republicans voted as a bloc this afternoon against a bill designed to spread the state’s economic recovery among the greatest number of Coloradans.

HB14-1015, sponsored by Rep. Tracy Kraft-Tharp (D-Arvada), extends the ReHire Colorado program for two years. ReHire Colorado was created in 2013 to provide on-the-job skills, training and experience to low-income, low-skill Colorado workers who are unemployed or underemployed and are at the greatest risk of seeing the economic rebound pass them by.

Working through local agencies such as Goodwill in Denver and Colorado Springs and Catholic Charities in Pueblo, the program aims to place approximately 545 people into transitional employment in 2014. Participants must be un- or underemployed Coloradans with a family income at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty limit and be actively seeking work, and preference will be given to veterans, Coloradans over age 50 and parents making child support payments.

“There are folks in our communities that are struggling extra hard to be able to find employment,” Rep. Kraft-Tharp told the House Business, Labor, Economic & Workforce Development Committee. “This program is aimed at those folks.”

The committee sent the bill to the Appropriations Committee on a 6-5 party-line vote.

“While I’m pleased that the bill advanced, I’m disappointed at the lack of bipartisan support,” the committee chairwoman, Rep. Angela Williams (D-Denver), said afterward. “It shouldn’t be hard for any of our legislators to support a bill that gets more Coloradans into the workforce.”

The Business Committee also approved an extension of the Procurement Technical Assistance Center program, sponsored by Reps. Su Ryden (D-Aurora) and Bob Gardner (R-Colorado Springs). The program helps guide Colorado businesses through the labyrinth of bidding on federal contracts.

Rep. Ryden testified that the program has helped Colorado business land more than $700 million in federal contracts, a return on investment of more than 1,000 to one.

The bill, HB14-1016, was sent to the Finance Committee on a bipartisan 10-1 vote.

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