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GCI Partners With Colorado Lawmakers to Refer a Measure for Universal Preschool, Provide Urgent Support for K-12 Education and Affordable Housing, and Expand the Earned Income Tax Credit

As the Colorado legislature neared the end of its second session for 2020, Gary Community Investments (GCI) fought hard to support two bills aimed at improving school readiness and economic security for children and families in Colorado.

Working with a diverse body of community stakeholders that included legislators and advocates for early childhood education, health care, and affordable housing, GCI helped support the passage of House Bill 1427 and House Bill 1420, both of which aim to put more money into the hands of families in need.

“A little collaboration goes a long way when it comes to taking on the big challenges that are facing Colorado’s families,” said Gary Community Investments CEO Mike Johnston. “We’ve always believed that if we work quickly and thoughtfully to bring various constituents together to develop helpful solutions for those who need it most, everyone in Colorado ends up benefiting.”

The team at GCI worked with allies and legislators to secure a referred ballot measure in which voters in November will choose whether to increase taxes on tobacco and nicotine products to help fund early childhood programs. The bill, known as House Bill 1427, increases the statutory per cigarette tax by 5.5 cents until July 1, 2024, then to 7 cents until July 1, 2027, and thereafter to 9 cents. The funding from this measure will support the establishment of universal preschool for all 4-year-olds in Colorado. The innovative model will allow all 4-year-olds to get 10 hours per week of free preschool at the location of their choice, while also providing significant additional support to the children most likely to enter kindergarten without being school ready.  This sliding scale approach will allow the state to target the greatest resources to the greatest need. In the first two-and-a-half years, the revenue measure will help support key state investments that were at risk given the budget crisis. Nearly $450 million in the next two-and-a-half years will help support K-12 education, rural schools and affordable housing and funding for eviction legal assistance.

GCI also helped support House Bill 1420 and the Earned Income Tax Credit for qualifying tax filers. While the state’s earned income tax credit was previously equal to 10% of the federal earned income tax credit, GCI and its stakeholders worked with lawmakers to increase the percentage to 15% beginning in 2023. The final bill also extends the tax break to qualifying workers regardless of whether they live in the U.S. legally or illegally.

“The close of this year’s 2020 legislative session represents a massive win for low income children and their families,” Johnston added. “In the middle of the COVID-19 and fiscal crisis, Gary Community Investments is doing all we can to support those who need us most, and it was inspiring to see legislators rise to the occasion and work together in a bi-partisan fashion to get some big things done for the state.”

Gary Community Investments was grateful for the heroic and tireless work of the legislative champions who made our universal preschool program possible: our House sponsors state Rep. Julie McCluskie and (D) state Rep. Yadira Caraveo, our Senate sponsors (D) state Sen. Dominick Moreno, (D) state Sen. Rhonda Fields, (D) and state Sen. Don Coram (R) for his courageous stand to be the final vote we needed to ensure passage.