Bills to increase funding for special education, youth and families’ behavioral health and Colorado Works Program pass House
DENVER, CO – The House today passed three bills that will increase funding for special education, boost access to behavioral health services for Colorado families and youth, and increase cash assistance under the Colorado Works Program to lift families out of poverty and support vulnerable children.
“Education needs to be tailored to each and every student, which is why we allocated an additional $80 million in this bill for special education,” said Rep. Julie McCluskie, D-Dillion, sponsor of SB22-127. “Investing more in special education along with record investments in K-12 public schools through the 2022 Public School Finance Act is the step in the right direction for filling funding gaps in Colorado’s education system and preparing our students for success.”
SB22-127, sponsored by Representatives Julie McCluskie and Colin Larson, passed by a vote of 58-4. This bill would dramatically increase funding for more than 100,000 Colorado special education students, from about $220 million per year currently to $300 million per year moving forward. This increase will bring down student-teacher ratios, decrease class sizes, and help schools provide the tailored assistance and support special education students need to learn and receive the quality education they deserve.
“Early intervention and access to the right programs are some of the best tools we have to improve youth behavioral health outcomes,” said Rep. Mary Young, D-Greeley, sponsor of SB22-147. “Improving access to services is key to improving behavioral health outcomes. To combat Colorado’s youth behavioral health crisis, we are strategically investing more than $11 million in federal relief dollars toward programs designed to improve and increase access to services for youth and their families.”
Behavioral Health Care Services for Youth and Families: SB22-147, sponsored by Representatives Mary Young and Rod Pelton, passed by a vote of 52 to 10. This bill aims to improve access to behavioral health care services for youth and families by utilizing $11.1 million of federal relief funds distributed through three programs. $4.6 million will support the Colorado Pediatric Psychiatry Consultation and Access Program (CoPPCAP) which provides support and assistance to primary care providers and pediatricians to help identify and treat children with behavioral health needs. $5 million will go toward increasing the number of school health professionals who can provide behavioral health services to students, while $1.5 million will expand school-based health centers in Colorado.
“Children in Colorado should not grow up in poverty; increasing basic cash assistance benefits will boost the incomes of thousands of vulnerable families and continue making Colorado the best state to raise kids,” said Rep. Monica Duran, D-Wheat Ridge, sponsor of HB22-1259. “These changes will improve outcomes for kids, lift families out of poverty and help Coloradans afford basic necessities such as food, diapers, and school supplies.”
“The pandemic has led to rising inflation and costs on families, and at the same time, the cash assistance that vulnerable families rely on hasn’t increased significantly since 1996,” said Rep. Iman Jodeh, D-Aurora, sponsor of HB22-1259. “This bill will put nearly $50 million pandemic relief funds into the pockets of our most vulnerable families, which will improve education outcomes for children, increase opportunities for families and set up the next generation of Coloradans to thrive.”
HB22-1259, sponsored by Representatives Monica Duran and Iman Jodeh, passed by a vote of 40-22. The bill increases monthly basic cash assistance payments under the Colorado Works Program by 10 percent. Starting next year, the bill would increase cash assistance two percent or by the average Social Security cost of living adjustment, whichever is greater. The bill also expands eligibility for the assistance to more vulnerable Coloradans by removing restrictions on single parents with children below the age of one. The bill also increases funding for the Employment Opportunities with Wages Program, which helps Colorado Works participants find permanent employment with a living wage.
A parent living in extreme poverty only revives $508 per month. Over the next three years, the bill will direct nearly $50 million in pandemic relief funds to leverage other state and local resources to increase benefits. This will put well over $50 million directly into the pockets of over 15,000 vulnerable families to help them afford the rising cost of goods and care for vulnerable children.