Improving Food Assistance & Other Programs (SB 16-190)

SB-190 Bill Signing - Gov Hickenlooper


Hunger Free Colorado’s top priority during the 2016 state legislative session was fixing food stamps across the state. Senate Bill 16-190 was signed into law by Gov. John W. Hickenlooper on Wednesday, June 1. The new state law will improve the efficiency and effectiveness of food stamps across Colorado, which will greatly benefit our local communities and state economy. Read more about the bill signing on our blog.

The bipartisan legislation was sponsored by the Joint Budget Committee, advanced from the Senate and House with unanimous support, and received strong support from a diverse array of stakeholders. It also received news coverage, including a front-page story in The Denver Post.

In the months since, Hunger Free Colorado has been actively participating in the implementation of the state legislation. Staff are serving on work groups — one that’s developing the formula for sharing federal bonuses and sanctions for program performance among the counties and another that’s overseeing the study of how counties administer Food Assistance (more commonly known as food stamps) and other programs and why they have such different outcomes. Both processes are moving forward, full of thoughtful discussion of the issues at stake and how to make the most of the opportunities presented by the legislation.

Find out more about what it will do and why it matters, and read the full story behind SB 16-190 on our blog. Thanks to all who took action and supported this important bill!

What Will Senate Bill 16-190 Do?

Food Fuels Access to Food Stamps CapitolThere are three key reasons that SB 16-190 is an important step to alleviating hunger in Colorado.

  • First, it creates an incentive for counties to look at issues in their administration of food stamps, federally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and in Colorado as the Food Assistance Program. The proposed bill empowers the State of Colorado to pass through existing federal bonuses and penalties to those counties that drive the receipt for either. Counties will work closely with the State to establish the formula, and this helps to further clarify what the expectations are for both the state and the counties.
  • Second, SB 16-190 calls for in-depth analysis of why the aspects of food stamps and other public assistance programs work better in some counties than others. The study proposed in the bill would examine indicators like cost-per -case, and processing time and error rates, along with how counties carry out these processes and what resources they’ll need to tailor and implement best practices at a local level.
  • Third, it aligns with the addition of three key staff for the Food Assistance office at the Colorado Department of Human Services, which was approved in the state budget. The new positions include a program manager, a fiscal analyst and a performance analyst, and each will help a severely understaffed office so they can better support the counties in finding and implementing opportunities to improve their delivery of food assistance.

More specifically, it will improve the overall administration of the Food Assistance Program in Colorado by:

  • Requiring the Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS) and county departments of human services (county departments) to endeavor to meet federal performance measures for administering the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known in Colorado as Food Assistance.
  • Requiring CDHS to work with county departments to establish a system that allows certain federal performance bonuses or sanctions to be applied to those county departments based on effectiveness and efficiency.
  • Authorizing the use of state-funded administration performance bonuses to county departments if the state appropriates funds for such a purpose.
  • At the request of various counties across Colorado, the bill directs an external vendor to collaborate with counties to collect and analyze county department costs and performance associated with administering public assistance programs, including: Food Assistance, Medicaid, Children’s Basic Health Plan, Colorado Works, the Old Age Pension program, the Program for Aid to the Needy Disabled and Long Term Care Services.
  • Require CDHS to design a continuous quality improvement program for the county departments, in order to establish a process for consistent enhancement of state and county administration

Read the full story behind SB 16-190 on our blog. Download the bill fact sheet and view the bill language.

Why Does this Bill Matter?

Food Fuels Colorado Continues To


Colorado currently ranks 45th in the U.S. for access to food stamps. The state also loses more than $269,000,000 in grocery sales annually—funds that could help Coloradans in need as well as boost our state’s economy.

The Food Assistance Program is a critical, short-term support for thousands of Coloradans, and it is vital that the program run as effectively and efficiently as possible to deliver these services. Food stamps provide eligible families with modest monthly funds to purchase food, averaging only about $1.40 per person, per meal. The majority of those eligible are children, seniors, working adults, veterans and those who are disabled.

Every program funded by taxpayers should be transparent and accountable to the community and those it seeks to serve. Nationally, food stamps is one of the most vigorously regulated benefits with 93% of federal program spending going directly to those in need and a fraud rate of only about 1%. Despite the effectiveness and efficiency of the program nationally, Colorado’s state-supervised, county-based system underperforms in some of the key metrics and can be improved; that is the focus of SB 16-190.

Find out how Colorado and your county are performing and how it impacts Coloradans by viewing our Food Stamp Impact Reports. 

Bill’s Progress

SB16-190 House Floor Vote

The bipartisan legislation, sponsored by the Joint Budget Committee, was introduced by the State Senate on Tuesday, April 19. It was assigned to the Senate Appropriations Committee and advanced with unanimous support on Friday, April 22.

SB16-190 then was passed unanimously by the State Senate on Tuesday, April 26. It headed to the House Appropriations Committee, where it advanced with unanimous support on Tuesday, May 3. It then passed unanimously by the House of Representatives on Wednesday, May 4.

The bill now heads to the Governor’s desk. If signed into law, it will greatly benefit Colorado communities and our state’s economy.

Thank you to all who have taken action and supported this important bill!

Bill Supporters

There is a growing list of supporters, including health, faith-based, senior-focused, agriculture and economic-focused entities.

All Families Deserve a Chance Coalition
American Diabetes Association – Colorado Chapter
AVail DreamLINK
The Bell Policy Center
Children’s Hospital of Colorado
City Square
Colorado Center on Law & Policy
Colorado Coalition for the Homeless
Colorado Coalition for the Medically Underserved
Colorado Council of Churches
Colorado Children’s Campaign
Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition
Colorado Fair Share
Colorado Fiscal Institute
Colorado Gerontological Society
Colorado Senior Lobby
Cooking Matters Colorado
Denver Inner City Parish
Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce
Food Bank of the Rockies
Healthier Colorado
Hunger Free Colorado
Kaiser Permanente
La Puente Home
LiveWell Colorado
Lutheran Advocacy Ministry – Colorado
Metro Caring
Mile High United Way
Montview Presbyterian Church – Social Justice Ministry
Project Angel Heart
Rocky Mountain Farmers’ Union
Rocky Mountain Food Industry Association

If your organization would like to join us and many others in supporting this bill, please contact our director of public policy, Joël McClurg, at (303) 228-7966.