Colorado’s Citizen Legislature – Mar. 2014
~ By Doris Beaver ~
One of today’s bills, SB 14-012, will be a tremendous help to some of Colorado’s most vulnerable citizens waiting for federal benefits to begin. For a person newly disabled, many poor and homeless, that waiting time can be an eternity when one’s source of income has ended. Sometimes, just sometimes, Colorado’s vulnerable show up on the radar of Colorado’s Citizen Legislature.
Senate Bill 14-012: Colorado’s Aid to the Needy Disabled (AND) Program “provides assistance payments to low-income Colorado residents from ages 18 to 59 who have been medically certified as disabled and are unable to work for a period of at least six months.” SB 012 is recommended by the Economic Opportunity Poverty Reduction Task Force.
The AND program was established in 1953 as an “interim assistance program” for qualifying people waiting for their federal Supplemental Security Income benefits to begin.
SB 012 sets forth these requirements:
- the Department of Human Services is to set the monthly assistance payment under the Aid to Needy Disabled Program equal to at least 28 percent of the federal poverty guidelines for a household of one; and
- specifies that the state program rules must require AND applicants and recipients who may be eligible for other state of federal benefits to apply for and accept any such benefits.
The fiscal impact analysis provides these statistics:
- •28 percent of the federal poverty guidelines for a household of one is equal to $268.00 per month based on the 2013 guidelines;
- the current average AND payment is $175.00 per month; and
- if a person on AND is found to be permanently disabled and later deemed eligible for federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, the state is retroactively reimbursed for any state payments to the person under the AND program.
The Committee on Finance recommended SB 012 be favorably referred to the Committee on Appropriations.
Lead Sponsors of Senate Bill 14-012: Senator John Kefalas (D-Larimer) 866-4811; and Representative Thomas “Tony” Exum (D-El Paso ) 866-3069.
Senate Bill 14-098: The 2013 legislative session saw passage of Senate Bill 13-111, a bill that took Colorado out of the dubious distinction of one of three states in the country without a legal requirement to report the abuse or exploitation of at-risk adults. The bill also required the Department of Human Services to “implement an awareness campaign among the public and mandatory reporters about the mistreatment, self-neglect and exploitation of all at-risk adults, including at-risk elders.”
Anytime such a complicated piece of legislation as SB 13-111 is passed, the need for clarification almost always arises. SB 098 amends the language of Section 18-6.5-102 of the Colorado Revised Statutes, and adds “other things of value” to the current definition of exploitation of at-risk elders – currently only “money, assets or property” are in the statutes.
The language of the current statute is also amended to expand the definition of “abuse” to include “exploitation.” SB 13-111 provided that exploitation of at-risk elders be charged as theft, with two-ways of the offense being charged: 1) under the theft statute of Section 19-4-201 of the Colorado Revised Statutes; or 2) under the crimes against at-risk adults and juvenile statutes of Section 28-6.5-103(5).
SB 098 “eliminates the option for a district attorney to charge someone for an offense against an at-risk elder under the theft statute.” The significance of this change is that the severity of the penalty is increased, from a class 1 petty offense under the theft statute to a class 2 felony, depending on the value of the items (under $500.00 is a class 5 felony; over $500.00 is a class 3 felony).
With minor amendment, SB 098 was referred by the Committee on Judiciary to the Committee of the Whole with favorable recommendation.
Sponsors of Senate Bill 098: Senator Rachel Zenzinger (D-Jefferson) 866-4840; and Representatives Mike Foote (D-Boulder) 866-2920, and Sue Schafer (D-Jefferson) 866-5522.
Doris is a freelance journalist who writes from her home high in the Colorado Rocky Mountains on senior issues, politics, ethics and environmental issues. Visit her website www.dorisbeaver.com or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.