2019 Legislative Session Created Traction for Women’s Economic Advancement

Alison Friedman Phillips, programs director, WFCO 

The 2019 Colorado legislative session will be remembered for many things, including an unprecedented female majority House and the first session under the leadership of a new governor. The Women’s Foundation of Colorado (WFCO) will remember it for the traction made for women to be able to enter, remain, and succeed in the workplace and support their families.

With support from generous funders, including WomenGive, a program of United Way of Larimer County, The Women’s Foundation used our public policy expertise and resources to support 18 bills that focused on elevating child care and making work really work for women. All but two passed.

Elevating Child Care

In Larimer County, there is a three-year wait list for the Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP), which subsidizes child-care costs for working families with qualifying incomes. Without that support, the monthly cost for infant care in a licensed child-care center averages $1,421. Access to high-quality, affordable child care remains one of our state’s most significant barriers to women’s economic advancement. To address this issue, WFCO supported the following bills that have been signed into law.

HB 19-100: Income Tax Credit for Certain Early Childhood Educators

Ninety-six percent of early child-care educators in Colorado are low-income working women who don’t make enough to meet their basic needs despite being a vital segment of our workforce. Their inadequate pay contributes to a high turnover rate and instability in the child-care industry, which in turn negatively affects the quality of care children experience and disrupts parents’ employment. Keeping childhood educators in the field, with good pay, is key to providing high-quality education and care for Colorado kids.

HB 19-101: Income Tax Credit for Child Care Expenses

Those with incomes of $25,000 or less may claim a refundable state income tax credit for child-care expenses for the care of a dependent.

HB 19-105: Special Districts to Provide Early Childhood Development Services

This bill authorizes the creation of early childhood development service districts that may seek voter approval to levy property taxes and sales taxes to provide services that include early care and educational, health, mental health, and developmental services, including prevention and intervention.

SB 19-063: Infant and Family Child Care Action Plan

This bill requires the development of a strategic action plan addressing the declining availability of family child-care homes and infant child care.

HB 19-1262: State Funding for Full-Day Program

All school districts in Colorado are allowed to access funds for full-day kindergarten in the 2019-20 school year, which will help many families save thousands of dollars. For the 2018-19 school year, Poudre School District full-day kindergarten tuition cost $2,835 per year, or about $315 for each of nine months. Thompson School District charged $2,610 per year, or $290 per month for the 2018-19 school year.

Making Work, Work for Women

Including and supporting all workers benefits employers, the workforce, and the entire economy with improved workforce stability and productivity, and broader economic growth. WFCO supported several bills that will create more inclusive and equitable workplaces and remove barriers to women’s workforce participation.

HB 19-2007: Employment Support Job Retention Services Program

This bill creates a program to provide emergency employment support and job retention services to eligible individuals in the state.

SB 19-085: Equal Pay for Equal Work Act

The passing of this bill is a coup for all working Colorado women, who on average earn .86 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts. Women of color earn even less. The Equal Pay for Equal Work Act ensures that all workers will be paid fairly for their work by prohibiting employers from seeking the wage rate history of a prospective employee; relying on a prior wage rate to determine a wage rate; and discriminating or retaliating against a prospective employee for failing to disclose the employee’s wage rate history. We’ll work with businesses, attorneys, and community groups to make sure the law is implemented fairly.

SB 19-173: Colorado Secure Savings Plan Board

A board of trustees will develop a plan for universal, automatic, portable, low-fee IRAs, for employees without access to workplace plans.

SB 19-188: FAMLI Family Medical Leave Insurance Program

Although the bill shifted into an implementation study bill, no prior paid family leave policy in any form has advanced to this point. The bill creates a family and medical leave implementation task force and calls for an analysis of options for administration of a paid leave insurance program. Colorado is on the way to implementing a safety net for women in the workplace (and all Colorado workers) to provide care to loved ones at critical times, seek necessary medical treatment, and remain employed.

There Is Work Still to Be Done

In addition to the policies that elevate child care and make work work for women and their families, WFCO supported bills that expand affordable housing, create college savings accounts, regulate student loan providers, and more. Each bill paves clear pathways toward economic security for more Colorado families.

But there is more work to be done in the 2020 legislative session and throughout the year. The child-care crisis in Colorado must continue be addressed through policy and philanthropy. As the Equal Work for Equal Pay Act approaches implementation in January 2021, WFCO plans to be a resource for employees and employers. Lastly, we look forward to working alongside employees, employers, policy experts, economists, private insurers, and communities across Colorado to shape a viable future for paid family leave in Colorado.

Join The Women’s Foundation of Colorado on August 13 in Northern Colorado for an “Advocating for Impact” training at Council Tree Library at 6:00 p.m. Register at www.wfco.org.

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