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"Flat Tire Fund" Moves Through CO Legislature

Nearly 20 percent of Coloradans in their prime working years, ages 25 to 64, have been unable to join the workforce. (Pixabay)
Nearly 20 percent of Coloradans in their prime working years, ages 25 to 64, have been unable to join the workforce. (Pixabay)
April 10, 2018

DENVER – It can happen to anyone. You're about to leave for a job interview – and your car won't start.

But what might seem like a relatively minor setback for many can end up being an insurmountable barrier for people struggling to make ends meet.

House Bill 1310, making its way through the Colorado Legislature, would allow nonprofit organizations to pay these types of emergency expenses for low-income Coloradans pursuing employment or job training.

At the Bell Policy Center, Director of Policy and Research Rich Jones said similar programs in other states for low-income college students are often called "flat-tire funds."

"They find out they have a flat tire, their battery dies, something like that," Jones explained. "It may not cost very much – it may be a $100 expense, or a $150 expense. But particularly for very low-income people in these training programs, that may be a lot of money for them."

The bill would create a three-year pilot program to help eligible residents overcome short-term obstacles, including transportation, emergency child care, emergency housing, food and medical expenses. The program would include ten rural counties and a limited number of ZIP Codes in Adams, Arapahoe, Denver and Pueblo counties.

The bill has not yet been met with opposition, although lawmakers have asked questions about how it would be managed.

Jones said even though Colorado's economy is strong, nearly 20 percent of people in their prime working years are still not able to join the workforce. He is convinced HB 1310 would go a long way to bridge economic gaps that can derail people from getting the skills they need.

"For us to meet the demands of employers in the state, and for us to keep our economy growing, we need to be pulling more of those people that are not in the workforce into the workforce," he said, "and getting them training, so that they're qualified for the jobs that we need filled."

Sponsored by Rep. James Coleman, D-Denver, the bill would provide last-resort emergency funding, up to $400 per person per year, to Coloradans working toward an employment or job-training goal.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO