Combating Poverty in Colorado

Aug 02, 2011

One day in July 2009, eight legislators from both sides of the aisle sat around a hearing room for nearly eight hours to discuss poverty, how it personally affected them, and to learn about the face of poverty in communities across their state. Earlier that year, Colorado's General Assembly made a commitment to halve poverty in the state by 2019. These eight legislators were the members of the legislative Economic Opportunity Poverty Reduction Task Force created to come up with a strategy to reach this ambitious goal. By the end of 2010 they had created the first step of their plan and passed all eight pieces of their recommended initial legislation.

Colorado's task force is one of four state task force's profiled in CLASP's new report, Poverty and Opportunity: What Difference Can a Task Force Make?. Colorado is one of 20 states, including Washington D.C., which have established poverty and opportunity task forces. Eleven of these states have set poverty reduction targets such as cutting poverty in half in a decade.

Representative John Kefalas, a champion for economic opportunity in Colorado, approached Colorado's task force asking, "How do we build an economy that works for all of us; an economy that serves people, not the other way around?" When Colorado's task force first convened, the state's poverty rate was more than 12 percent. In the two years that followed, the task force has begun to reframe the public discourse around poverty, increase community engagement, raise a new awareness among legislators on both sides of the aisle, dismantle silo walls between stakeholders, connect local efforts,  and pass legislation.  

The Colorado task force provides an example of a committed legislative commission to end poverty.  The state's successes and challenges provide a guide for other states looking to create a strategic government body for poverty reduction. From passed legislation to bringing in new stakeholders, the Colorado task force is showing that it can make a difference.

For more information about Colorado and the three other state task forces profiles (Minnesota, Ohio, and Illinois), read Poverty and Opportunity: What Difference Can a Task Force Make?.

What Difference Can a Task Force Make? is part of CLASP's Poverty and Opportunity series. See a chart of all state task forces and their member composition and operations. For a summary of task force recommendations, read State Poverty Task Force Recommendations.

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