State Policy and the Colorado General Assembly
Last week, six of Colorado’s most powerful members of the state legislature voted unanimously to help fix food stamps!
Hunger Free Colorado’s top priority this legislative session is fixing food stamps across the state. In partnership with Republicans and Democrats in both the State House and the State Senate, we’ve been working on ways the State can address issues with program administration and to raise us from the bottom of the national rankings in program access. (Find out how Colorado and your county are performing, how it impacts Coloradans, and what can be done to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of food stamps across the state.)
In particular, we’re working on ways to make sure Colorado meets the federal standards for program administration, and we’re working on clarifying the roles and responsibilities of the state and the counties so there’s less confusion and more accountability. We also have been working to shore up the understaffed state human services office that’s trying to support each of Colorado’s 64 counties as they administer the program.
On March 17, the Colorado Joint Budget Committee — the committee with three legislators from the State House and three legislators from the State Senate who are responsible for the state budget — voted unanimously to introduce a bipartisan bill to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of food assistance, as well as to increase the state’s capacity to provide support and oversight for the counties with three additional staff.
This bill is currently being drafted. We’ll notify you as soon as it is introduced, as your help will be needed to carry the momentum forward. You can have tremendous impact on hunger in Coloradans by asking your State Senator and State Representative to support this bipartisan bill.
On another note, Hunger Free Colorado has been working with the Colorado School Nutrition Association on a small change to the Breakfast After the Bell Nutrition Program, to be carried by Rep. Dominick Moreno. The Speaker of the House is taking some time to review the idea, but if introduced, it would provide more flexibility to school districts with schools having more than 70% but fewer than 80% students eligible for free or reduced priced meals.
It would give these districts the opportunity to examine their financial position, and while still offering breakfast after the school day begins to all students, determine whether the students who are not eligible for free or reduced meals should pay for their breakfast. This small modification, made at the districts’ discretion, will further support the breakfast program in Colorado.
Federal Policy and the U. S. Congress
Last week, the House Budget Committee approved a FY2017 Budget Resolution that threatens severe budget cuts to essential federal programs serving low-income families and individuals, such as food stamps. If enacted, these changes would mean more hunger and deeper poverty for many people, including working families, children, seniors and those with disabilities.
Please urge your U.S. Representatives to “vote no” if this budget resolution goes to a vote on the House floor.
Meanwhile, the House and Senate continue to work on reauthorization of the federal child nutrition programs. However, this process is currently stalled given partisan bickering over the cost of the draft legislation, which the Senate Agriculture Committee unanimously approved in January 2016. The House Education and the Workforce Committee also continues to explore options for their own version of reauthorization legislation.
The impacted federal child nutrition programs include school lunch and breakfast, summer meals, meals for child and adult care providers, and the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC).
Hunger Free Colorado’s top priority for Child Nutrition Reauthorization is the expansion of resources for children during the summer months, when the lack of access to school meals can have a dramatic impact on child hunger and families’ abilities to stretch their grocery budgets. We are specifically working on the expansion of the Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer Card Program, which would provide families with the resources and flexibility to buy food during the summer no matter where they live.
If you have questions about how fixing food stamps impacts you, your community or your work, or if you want to know more details about the policy changes we’re pursuing, please contact Cate Blackford, our director of public policy.
Thanks to all for their support in ensuring all Coloradans have access to the fuel they need to thrive!