Capitol Dispatch: A post-recession boost for needy disabled Coloradans

DENVER — “I would have gone from living in my car to living on the streets.”

“I would have had to prostitute myself for money.”

“I would not have survived the winter.”

That’s how some of the recipients of the state’s Aid to the Needy Disabled program described what the support meant to them when asked to by the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless.

On Wednesday, Fort Collins Democratic Senator John Kefalas’s bill ( SB 012), which would increase that monthly assistance from $175 to about $270, moved forward, gaining a Republican vote from Health and Human Services Committee member Kevin Lundberg.

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“The state’s role in helping the needy is as a last resort,” said Lundberg. “It’s that basic safety net that I’ve always said I support.”

Lundberg added that the measure restores the level of funding the state gave before the recession but doesn’t change who qualifies for the support: Coloradans aged 18-59 who are unable to work because of temporary or permanent disability, who currently make less than $200 a month and whose assets don’t exceed $2,000.

Right now, that’s nearly 7,300 people.

Those who testified in support of the increase said the program is vital because applying for social security benefits can take months, even a year. While waiting for social security to kick in, or to return to work, people use the stipend to pay for things like shelter, medicine, bus rides and socks.

Jamie Lewis served as a city councilman and later Mayor of Salida, but before that, he got sick, and says he would have been homeless without a stipend provided by the program.

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The measure now moves to the Finance Committee.

[ Image: Milton by Greg Jordan. ]