Thursday, February 24, 2011

Opportunities Made Possible by TANF

By: Peggy Warriner

My story starts as a working taxpayer just trying to make a living and reach the American Dream, and I know firsthand the difficulties we are facing in this economy. I’m the single parent of my eight-year-old daughter, Theresa. In October 2007, I became so physically ill I was unable to work, and after my daughter and I stayed with some family and then a shelter, I had no other choice but to apply for TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families), Medicaid and food stamps. With income from TANF, I was able to move into transitional housing, as well as have the time to apply for low-income housing, pay for my car insurance, and get a telephone. I was also able to go to the doctor and attend to my health issues, which in turn allowed me to be more physically able to work and be a better mother. As soon as I received those benefits I felt a weight lifted off my shoulders and I could focus more on meeting our basic needs like food, shelter and personal wellness.

This time on TANF also allowed me to do another very important thing, get back on track and follow the American Dream. I was finally able to attend school full time and became a certified Auto Technician. It isn’t always easy having the Department of Human Services in your business or meeting their requirements, but in the end I am thankful that someone believed in me. I can honestly say that I followed my dreams, and even if I don’t reach them, I won’t forget the accomplishments I have made along the way. I know that the American Recover and Reinvestment Act helped put more money into TANF and other benefits for families, and now that the money is gone, I’m wondering what is going to happen to me and other families like mine. TANF is constantly under attack for cuts to reduce budget shortfalls, but the state should not attempt to balance the budget on the backs of those who have the least.

How we treat those most vulnerable in our society is a test of who we are as people. In order to protect and support those who need it the most we must continue to value and invest in our community benefit programs that help families like mine reach their potential, so we can have a Colorado that does not cast people aside when they need help the most, but provides them time and assistance to get back on their feet and achieve economic security for families.

Friday, February 18, 2011

ARRA dollars at work and still working

by Margaret Gomez

34-year-old Jeremy Kozik worked in the architecture industry for nine years before he lost his job when the Great Recession came crashing down in Colorado. Over the next 15 months, Jeremy looked persistently for a new job, but in some of the hardest hit sectors, there were very few opportunities to get back to work. Like millions of other professionals out of a job, Jeremy filed for Unemployment Insurance to make ends meet. He also participated in local educational programming to supplement his current job skills and still advance his career in these tough times. Luckily for unemployed workers, Colorado recently qualified to pay up to an additional six weeks of federal extended benefits, known as Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC). Jeremy heard about iCAST from another unemployed colleague who had already completed some classes there. iCAST is a non-profit organization that offers services such as resume building and educational classes to improve their job skills. The 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funded this program and others like it in Colorado. This monumental public policy allowed billions of dollars to be streamlined directly to states to fund job training programs, public services, jobs, and bolstered newer industries, such as the renewable energy sectors, to help local communities put people back to work. So far in Colorado, that largest potions of these funds, $1,118 million have been spent on job training and Unemployment Insurance. According to a report by the Colorado Fiscal Policy Institute, Colorado experienced an increase in the unemployment rate last December. Now at 8.8%, the unemployment rate is at its highest since the start of the economic downturn, and in 28 years. With Colorado’s unemployment rate forecasted at 8.4 percent for 2011 and 8.2 percent for 2012, workers are still depending on state programs and services to keep their heads above water in a stagnant economy. Educational training programs such as iCAST,the Denver Green Jobs Initiative, and other vital community benefit services are now at risk because the funding from the Recovery Act, which had filled some of these holes since 2009, is only trickling into the state. According to the Colorado Legislative Council, the state is now facing a $1.1 billion general fund budget shortfall for 2011 and a significant revenue crisis. The gaps in state funding will have an immense impact on everyone in our community, from those accessing Medicaid benefits to anyone currently enrolled in a school in Colorado. In order to ensure a quality future for Colorado, it’s necessary to continue to invest in our community benefit programs the way the Recovery Act did so we can achieve economic security for Colorado families.

*In January 2011, Jeremy accepted a new full time position as an architect with Western Engineering and Research Corporation (WERC).

Margaret Gomez is the ARRA organizer and can be contacted at

Thursday, February 10, 2011

9to5 Is On The Line

Every year, thousands of women and men call 9to5’s Job Survival Helpline for advice on how to deal with difficult situations at work, information on their rights in the workplace, and tips on balancing work and family.

After Maya* fell and injured herself on the job, her supervisor began pushing her to quit. When that didn’t intimidate her, he tried to pit Maya and another woman against each other, creating a hostile work environment for both of them. Fortunately, both women could see through his behavior and became allies instead of enemies. The supervisor became verbally abusive and made the workplace unbearable.

Maya says her supervisor’s behavior bordered on stalking. He abused his authority by calling his staff and asking them to report on her. If he could not see her, he wanted to know where she was at all times. When Maya reported his behavior to Human Resources, her supervisor’s harassment escalated. “One time, he waited for me outside in the parking lot and followed me in his car,” she says. Maya felt threatened enough to call the police.

One day, her supervisor turned to her and demanded, “Why are you working here anyway? You have an advanced degree.” This confirmed Maya’s feelings that her supervisor felt threatened by her education and experience. With nowhere else to turn, Maya fled to the bathroom to pull herself together. She had gotten 9to5’s number previously, and now she called the 9to5 Job Survival Helpline from the bathroom of her workplace.

That call made all the difference. “It was having a place to call that could listen and give resources, having someone who was on my side, that helped me get through the day,” she says. The person on the other end of the line gave her tips she could use right then to deal with the situation and sent her a list of local lawyers, highlighting the ones that dealt with discrimination and retaliation.

Maya ended up leaving her job, and in spite of her reports to his superiors, her former supervisor is still there. Maya says that knowing that the problems weren’t her fault, but her supervisor’s, helped her get through the situation. She believes that everyone should have the right to a workplace free from harassment, and those that don’t should have options to remedy the

The Job Survival Helpline offers information and resources about your rights in the workplace. The Helpline is staffed from 9:00 AM- 5:00 PM Eastern time on weekdays, and has additional evening hours between 5:00 and 7:00 PM Eastern time on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call 1-800-522-0925 to speak to a trained staff person.

*Name has been changed at Maya's request.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Go Lead Training February: Rules for Lobbying

Come to this workshop to learn all of the ways to integrate rules of lobbying into you advocacy work!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

5:30-7:30 PM


Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains
7155 E. 38th Ave
Denver CO 80207

*** Snacks provided ***

Click here to RSVP or you can contact Margarita at

The Go Lead program is a series of monthly trainings designed to increase your leadership and give you the skills to be an effective advocate. Join us on the 3rd Wednesday of every month at the Colorado Education Association.

The Colorado Go Lead Training series is brought to you by:

9 to 5 National Association of Working Women

Center for Progressive Leadership

Colorado Education Association

Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR)

Denver Area Labor Federation (DALF)

Latina Initiative

NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado

New Era Colorado

ONE Colorado

Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains

The White House Project