Bills to Protect At-Risk Children & Help Vulnerable Families Signed Into Law

Denver, CO — Governor Jared Polis today signed three bills into law that will improve the child welfare system, protect essential benefits for Coloradans who need them, and provide a one-time payment of $500 to the state’s most vulnerable families to help them during the COVID-19 pandemic.

SB20-162, sponsored by Representatives Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez and Kim Ransom, makes a number of changes to the child welfare system to better protect vulnerable youth and connect them with the services they need. The new law aims to lower the rate of foster care and group home placement by allowing the state to use federal Family First funding to deliver supportive services in a family’s home, keeping families together whenever safely possible and consistent with the goals for the child or youth. 

“I’ve worked in the child and youth welfare system, and I’ve seen how important it is to keep children and youth in their homes and help families stay together,” said Rep. Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez, D-Denver. “This bipartisan new law allows our state to use federal funding to deliver evidence-based services in the most appropriate setting. It will help our state keep up with best practices, protect our most vulnerable children and youth, keep children and youth in their communities, and most importantly, reduce placements in group homes and residential facilities.” 

Currently, when a person is found to have intentionally committed a violation in seeking access to a public assistance program, that person is then barred from accessing any public benefits. SB20-206, sponsored by Representatives Jonathan Singer and Lois Landgraf, clarifies that recipients are only disqualified from participating in the program in which they were found to have committed the violation. 

“Everyone deserves a fair shot; we shouldn’t bar our most vulnerable from assistance without due process,” said Rep. Jonathan Singer, D-Longmont. “We have to do everything we can to protect our most vulnerable families, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, and now more Coloradans will be able to keep a roof over their heads and food on their family’s table when they’re in crisis.”

The governor also signed SB20-029, sponsored by Representatives James Coleman and Monica Duran, which provides a one-time assistance of $500 to participants in Colorado Works, the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. The program connects clients with job and training opportunities, providing support that helps participants become self-sufficient. Colorado Works assistance has not been adjusted for inflation since it was created in 1996, while the cost of living in Colorado has grown significantly since then. In 2019, approximately 35,000 Coloradans received TANF benefits each month, but that figure has likely grown due to the pandemic. 

“We are in an unprecedented economic and public health crisis, and Colorado families experiencing poverty need immediate help to afford basic needs,” said Rep. James Coleman, D-Denver. “This one-time payment will help vulnerable families make ends meet as our state works to recover from the pandemic.”

“Hardworking families across our state are struggling right now to pay their rent or mortgage or to put food on the table,” said Rep. Monica Duran, D-Wheat Ridge. “We can’t let Coloradans who are experiencing hard times fall further behind during this pandemic and into greater economic hardship or homelessness.”

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