The State of Colorado administers a variety of programs designed to assist single mothers heading low-income families. These programs include assistance with childcare, health care, housing, food, and education. The number of single mothers raising children under the age of 18 in Colorado topped 95,000 in 2011, according to the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies. With incomes averaging less than $30,000 per year, these Colorado single mothers usually will find they are eligible for numerous programs to help them succeed in difficult economic conditions.
The Colorado Peak website (https://peak.state.co.us/selfservice) is an excellent place to start to determine eligibility for public assistance for single mothers in Colorado. Colorado Peak is a web-based portal, maintained by the State of Colorado, that enables Colorado citizens to explore most state assistance programs in one place. Individuals enter their pertinent information by answering questions presented on the website. They then receive an estimation of their eligibility for food, medical, or cash assistance. Colorado Peak also allows individuals to apply online for benefits, check benefits online, or report changes their benefits.
Programs benefitting low-income single mothers in Colorado include:
Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP)
Child care assistance for single mothers in Colorado is available from the Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP). Under this program, eligible low-income families needing child care services in order to work, search for work, or train for work receive help to pay for that child care. Parents are able to choose their own child care provider, and that provider can be a relative, friend, licensed day care center, or licensed home day care.
Eligibility depends on income and family size, but all families whose income is 130 percent or less than the federal poverty guideline are served in all Colorado counties. Families that have an income above 85 percent of the State Median income are not eligible. Program participants must pay a “parental fee” directly to the provider at the beginning of each month. The amount of the parental fee is determined by the economic situation of each family. After the parental fee is paid, the CCCAP pays the balance of the monthly child care cost.
According to the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing, there are two primary programs that provide health care assistance for single mothers in Colorado. The first is Medicaid. This public health insurance program is available for low income families, children, and pregnant women, among others. Eligibility depends on the size of the family, income, and age, but income cannot exceed 250 percent of the federal poverty level. This program also cannot be combined with the Medicaid program.
Colorado Indigent Care Program (CICP)
For those who do not qualify for Colorado’s Medicaid program, there is another option called the Colorado Indigent Care Program. Not an insurance plan, the CICP provides financing to certain clinics and health care facilities so that eligible people can receive health care at those facilities at a discounted rate. CICP guidelines are that participants do not pay more than ten percent of their annual income to a participating clinic or hospital in any 12-month period.
Affordable housing can be a particular challenge for single mothers. Housing assistance for single mothers in Colorado is available primarily through federal government programs sponsored by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. This federal government program works in conjunction with the Colorado Department of Housing to provide low income rental assistance, emergency shelters, and specialized shelters for cases of domestic violence.
The federal rental assistance program known as “Section 8” is administered by the Colorado Department of Housing in the state. Rental vouchers enable very low income participants to pay for affordable housing. Because this program is in great demand, priority is given to senior citizens, disabled citizens, and families of veterans. The total family income must be less than 30 percent of the area median income.
FOOD AND NUTRITION
Colorado Food Assistance Program
According to the Colorado Department of Human Services, food assistance for single mothers in Colorado, who head low-income families, is readily available. Eligibility is dependent on the size of the household and the monthly income. The Colorado program guidelines state that unless federal exemption criteria is met, applicants for the Colorado food assistance program must work, apply for work, and/or accept offers of suitable work. Applicants must also participate in the Colorado Employment First Program, which is a federally mandated program designed to improve the employment prospects of the participants.
Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
Other programs poised to help single mothers include the Colorado WIC assistance program. WIC stands for Women, Infants, and Children. WIC is a nutrition program that helps pregnant, post-partum, and breastfeeding mothers and children under five years of age. Participants receive checks to cover the cost of healthy foods like milk, eggs, bread, fresh fruit and vegetables for example. Nutrition education and health screening are also vital parts of the program.
Many local jurisdictions in Colorado support food banks. Usually run by non-profit or charitable agencies, these food banks provide free or very low cost food for low income individuals and their families. In times of financial difficulty, these local food banks can make a significant difference in lowering a family’s food budget.
TEMPORARY CASH ASSISTANCE
Colorado Works – Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
Temporary cash assistance for single mothers in Colorado is available through a program called “Colorado Works.” Also known as the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), this program helps those low income individuals who are pregnant or have dependent children meet basic household expenses. Eligibility depends on income and the number of individuals in a family. Benefits are issued in the form of an electronic benefit transfer, or EBT, card.
Colorado Employment First
As noted above, the Colorado Employment First Program, required for all food assistance recipients, seeks to prepare individuals for gainful employment. Job training, GED classes, and other adult and vocational educational programs are provided.
Free Application For Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
Single mothers who are pursuing a college education have a variety of financial aid options. FAFSA, or the web-based Free Application For Federal Student Aid form enables students to determine their eligibility for federal financial aid. Individual Colorado colleges, civic organizations, corporations, and many other places also offer grants, scholarships, and financial aid to eligible students.