Letters to the Editor | April 23, 2019
I direct a small nonprofit with not a penny extra, and I am in full support of House Bill 188, the FAMLI Act.
This law would give employees partial pay replacement during a personal or family medical situation. We have covered the full salary for our employees on medical leave. Is it hard when someone is off for an extended period of time? Of course, but staff pitch in and help because they know that when they need the coverage, their peers will step in for them. As a result, we have loyal employees who are able to really focus on the job when they are at work. FAMLI insurance will cost us less because employers and employees will pay the small premiums with a 40-60.
Our employees do not abuse this; they are eager to get back to work. Donors rightly expect a high level of accountability, and we take that very seriously. When we make the decisions to pay people while on leave, we do so because it is good business, not because it is “nice.” However, shouldering the entire cost is hard for us as a nonprofit. The FAMLI Act would help tremendously.
In summary, as a nonprofit employer with 30-years post-graduate experience, I can say with confidence that FAMLI is good for Colorado nonprofit organizations.
Executive director, Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition
Original Article: Nonprofits would benefit from FAMLI Act
If you follow the news or talk to your neighbors, you know Colorado is in the midst of an affordable-housing crisis. The health and well-being of individual Colorado families is at risk as the cost of housing forces them to live in unhealthy homes, prevents them from having a stable place to live, and consumes so much of their income that they cannot afford other necessities or save money for an emergency. Hundreds of thousands of Coloradans are spending more than half their income on housing — a situation that puts them at risk of homelessness.
Colorado Center on Law and Policy began an effort to inject significant new funding into the budget for affordable housing in 2015. Yet, despite growing concerns, the legislature has only provided small amounts of funding for targeted high-cost populations such as people with mental illness and people leaving the criminal justice system. The legislature has not made a meaningful investment that would address the needs of the 275,000 ordinary Colorado households that are spending more than half of their income on rent.
For the fourth time in as many years, state legislators will have an opportunity to consider a bill that will help relieve the housing crisis without increasing taxes or redirecting funds from other priorities.
Developed by CCLP, House Bill 1322 would invest $30 million a year for three years in the Housing Development Grant Fund. That Fund provides grants and loans for a range of needs, including acquisition, renovation and construction of affordable housing, down-payment assistance, mobile home repair and rental assistance for a range of populations.
If HB 1322 is passed, Colorado Division of Housing would consult with stakeholders from urban and rural communities so that the funds address a variety of needs throughout the state. The legislation reflects input of stakeholders from urban and rural areas, convened by Democrats and Republicans in the House and the Senate.
HB 1322 doesn’t rely on taxpayer dollars or tap into the state budget. Funding will come from the unclaimed property trust fund. This fund holds dormant bank accounts, securities and life insurance proceeds and other abandoned property. While Colorado’s state treasurer makes a tremendous effort to find the owners of these abandoned accounts, hundreds of millions of dollars in the fund remain unclaimed. HB 1322 would put a fraction of that money to good use solving an urgent problem: the lack of affordable housing.
Sponsored by Rep. Dylan Roberts, Sen. Dominick Moreno and Sen. Don Coram, HB 1322 has been endorsed by the Urban Land Conservancy, Enterprise Community Partners, Colorado Municipal League, Colorado Counties, Inc., League of Women Voters, Tourism Industry Association of Colorado, Colorado Hotel and Lodging Association, Housing Colorado, Colorado Apartment Association, Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, Commissioners and Counties Acting Together, Habitat for Humanity Colorado, Interfaith Alliance, Boulder Housing Partners, Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition, city of Boulder, The Denver Foundation, Center for Health Progress, Colorado Senior Lobby, Colorado Bankers Association, 9to5, Denver Metro Fair Housing Center, Together Colorado, The Arc of Colorado, Denver Metro Fair Housing Center, Together Colorado and Wells Fargo Bank.
Legislators should also pass House Bill 1245. Sponsored by Rep. Mike Weissman, and Sens. Julie Gonzales and Mike Foote, this legislation would increase funding for affordable housing by limiting the amount of sales tax revenue Colorado’s largest retailers can keep as their “fee” for collecting the tax. The additional revenue would be transferred to the same housing fund within the Department of Local Affairs, and also would be used to preserve or expand the supply of affordable housing in Colorado. HB 1245 would provide roughly $23 million for housing in the first year and $45 million to $50 million per year thereafter.
Both HB 1322 and HB 1245 will help us begin to address the lack of affordable housing in targeted and creative ways without affecting taxpayers or other funding priorities. Both measures deserve support. Together, these bills could help thousands of Coloradans better afford a home so they can devote more of their hard-earned money to other essential needs.
Claire Levy is executive director of Colorado Center on Law and Policy, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that researches, develops and advocates for policies that improve family economic security and health care for all Coloradans.
Original Article: A couple of bills to boost affordable housing — without a tax hike
CCDC invites you to attend and support our 2019 ADA Access Awards Luncheon, to be held on Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019, from 12:00 – 1:30 p.m. (doors open at 11:30 a.m.) at the United Club in the Broncos Stadium at Mile High. At this event, we will recognize and honor community organizations and individuals who go above and beyond in their advocacy efforts for the disability community and who have done this work with equity in mind. All proceeds from this event benefit the programs of CCDC all year-round.
A board certified emergency physician who has practiced in the Denver metro area after completing his residency at Denver Health Medical Center where he served as chief resident, Dr. Mitchell joined the CCDC volunteer board of directors in 2018. Dr. Mitchell completed medical school at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Jersey and was appointed to the Alpha Omega Alpha honor society in his third year. Dr. Mitchell has served as the medical director at Parker Adventist hospital for over a decade. Currently serving as the VP of Medical Affairs for DispatchHealth, he has devoted his time to developing clinical treatment guidelines, creating mechanisms to provide high level, acute, and post-acute care in the home in an evidence-based and compliant manner, and educating midlevel providers in home-based acute care medicine. In July of 2017, Dr. Mitchell delivered a TED talk at TEDx Mile High titled, “The ER Housecall for the 21st Century”. We are so appreciative of Dr. Mitchell’s time and acceptance of our invitation to be our keynote speaker in 2019.
Along with the keynote address, CCDC will honor four Coloradans who have made major contributions to advancing social justice for people with all types of disabilities. At this luncheon, CCDC will also pay tribute to Carrie Ann Lucas, a nationally renowned disability rights activist who passed away this past spring.
Sponsorships are available and start at $500 each. To learn more, email this year’s Annual ADA Access Awards Luncheon organizer Lucinda Rowe at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 720-994-0313. To RSVP click here.
Event Date: 09/25/2019 – 11:30am – 1:30pm
Event Location: Broncos Stadium at Mile High, United Club Level (inside the stadium), 1701 Bryant Street, Denver, CO 80204
Our special thanks to 2019 Champion Level Sponsors, AOI Home Care and Rocky Mountain Health Plans!
“Julie Reiskin, executive director of the advocacy group Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition, is not involved with Stepping Stone. Reiskin has an adult child with a disability and understands the concerns parents like Barbara Ziegler and Arendt have for their children.
“Some kind of permanent affordable housing is what they need,” Reiskin said. “What you’re talking about is someone with very low income.””
TO: Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee
FROM: Julie Reiskin, Executive Director, Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition
RE: HB19-1225 and SB 19-191
I am writing on behalf of the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition (CCDC) to ask for your support of HB19-1225 and SB 19-191. CCDC is Colorado’s largest disability-led membership organization. Our mission is to advocate for social justice on behalf of people with all types of disabilities (cross-disability).
CCDC strongly believes and states in our strategic plan that people with disabilities must have both rights and responsibilities. Much of policy work is geared towards creating systems that enable people to engage in the full responsibilities of citizenship. We have made great strides in Colorado, but have a long way to go. Because of the many systemic injustices and barriers faced by people with disabilities, our community is disproportionately affected by poverty, lack of education, and unemployment. These systemic barriers are reversing, but very slowly.
One example is that since 2014 we have had the ability to buy into Medicaid while still being able to engage in competitive employment, and earn and save money. Since having this option the percentage of people with disabilities working full-time and full-year increased from 26-29% (as of 2017 the last year with available data). Therefore we still have more than 70% of people with disabilities are NOT employed full time and full year. Those not able to take advantage of this great program, or those still scarred by years or even decades of being told that work is impossible and savings constitutes some sort of fraud remain in poverty and often are reliant on programs that do not allow them to ever accumulate more than $2000 in all assets combined in any one month. If someone gets an SSDI check of $1200 this means that they could never have more than $800 in the bank.
Because of systemic discrimination, people with disabilities are dramatically overrepresented at every stage in the criminal justice system. Jail is no exception. People in jail are 4 times more likely to have disabilities than people in the general population, and more than half of people in jail have psychiatric disabilities. The injustice of these disparities are heightened in the pretrial conext, where presumptively innocent people may have their lives derailed from pretrial detention for a crime they did not commit or which is so minor that they would never even receive jail as s sentence. I share this to explain why HB 19-1225 and SB 19-191 is so important for people with disabilities.
When someone is detained pending trial a plethora of other problems can occur that are exacerbated by living with a disability.
In some housing situations, particularly assisted living, if one is gone more than a limited number of days one can lose their place. Then the person is not only facing criminal charges, but is now experiencing homelessness. Replacement housing for low-income people with disabilities is very unlikely..especially if there is some sort of criminal record.
Many people with disabilities are living in deep poverty. There is no extra money and they balance every month trying to manage. Fees involved in the criminal justice system add up quickly and if they pay, this is likely to cause the individual to not pay rent, utilities or other bills. Often they will give up services such as their phone, which then removes all of their data, reminder systems, etc. They then are not able to be reached and often get in more trouble for missing deadlines and appearance dates. For people unable to physically write, or those with cognitive disabilities who may have been trained using specialized apps to manage information are particularly hard hit. Finally, people often skimp on food and eat what is cheap, which causes secondary health issues OR they are forced to skip psychiatric medication because they do not have food to take with the meds.
Often when people are kept in jail too long due to problems releasing people after they have posted bond people have other problems. They miss scheduled medications, people who use oxygen may run out. Some people may require oxygen only at night but if they are kept in jail overnight a medical visit is required before the jail can provide oxygen if the individual has none. People in supervised living situations have curfews. Sometimes people are released so late that there is no public transportation. Because jails cannot give family or friends a specific (or even approximate) time, arranging for transportation home is a problem.
Unfortunately, poor people often have many debts. Once someone is involved with the criminal justice system they start incurring fees and fines. This can include fees for taking “classes”, fines for missing said classes, fees for “therapy” groups, and various other charges. When one is again arrested, any fees applied to the new bond should not be taken to address anything else.
HB1225 and SB191 are both smartly aimed at safely and smartly decreasing our pretrial population, in which people with disabilities are hugely overrepresented. Our support of this bill in no way implies that we think people with disabilities should not be held accountable if they commit a crime. What we do want, is a system that will have the punishment be proportional to the crime. Too often we see people with punishments that far exceed the crime. People with disabilities who are arrested should have to answer for their crimes (if they actually committed the crime) but that process should not cause someone to forever lose their housing, cause severe medical complications, or destabilize the person completely.
We believe HB19-1225 and SB 19-191 will help make justice more just in Colorado for the community that we represent and request your support.
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After a great deal of deliberation, cautious debate, legal advice, research, and consultation, CCDC has decided to actively support SB 182, which would repeal Colorado’s death penalty. We deliberated carefully and at length as to whether or not the bill raised an issue crucial to disability rights and, if so if there was a legitimate reason to urge repeal while maintaining our ongoing opinion that people with disabilities should take full and equal responsibility. With the help of our legal team, we decided that the answer was firmly “YES” to both questions.
I wish now to focus on some salient issues brought forth from our discussions and analysis.
Support of a ban would show that CCDC stands in solidarity with groups against whom the death penalty has been historically weaponized.