GovernorNews

Hickenlooper seeks to coordinate social benefits before leaving office

Author: Tom Ramstack - April 6, 2018 - Updated: April 12, 2018

DSC_1747-1-1280x794.png
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper during his presentation at the Aspen
Institute in Washington, D.C. on his 2Gen program of social welfare benefits on March 5, 2018. (Photo: Tom Ramstack, special to Colorado Politics)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said Thursday he plans to spend part of his last months in office trying to coordinate his administration’s social benefit programs.

Hickenlooper spoke mostly about job training and child welfare during a forum at the Aspen Institute public policy foundation in Washington.

He said his first seven years as governor resulted in higher employment rates, more job skills programs and improved child benefits.

However, now the government needs to join with nonprofit organizations and businesses to continue the progress, he said. The three-way ventures can be “amazingly powerful,” Hickenlooper said.

So far, some of his “2Gen” programs “haven’t been orchestrated, they haven’t been coordinated,” the Democratic governor said.

2Gen is an abbreviation for “two-generation.” It refers to Hickenlooper’s signature social welfare program for raising low-income families out of poverty by focusing on the parents and children jointly.

In general, 2Gen is a policy for helping parents put more effort into maintaining employment by providing government assistance with child care and education. It also helps families with their health care.

Hickenlooper developed ideas for 2Gen with contributions from the Aspen Institute. The Institute was founded in Aspen, Colorado, in 1949 as a place for intellectuals to gather for seminars, education and other meetings. It now operates with campuses worldwide.

Among public-private ventures Hickenlooper advocates are more apprenticeships for students to learn trades while continuing their vocational studies. His administration joined with the Denver-based nonprofit organization CareerWise Colorado to spearhead the effort.

He also envisions a continuing partnership with Microsoft Corp. to expand its online career coaching program called Skillful.com. The system, which still is being developed, allows Internet visitors to track their job skills and plot additional steps they need to complete their training.

Sixteen states are participating in Microsoft’s method of coordinating career coaching through Skillful.com.

“I have 280 days left in this administration,” Hickenlooper told a crowd of about 225 attendees at the Aspen Institute forum. “We’re really focused on implementation.”

He described his two-generation approach for reducing poverty as different from most states, where job training for high-level skills alone often is the central theme.

“If you’re working 40 to 60 hours a week to support your family, you simply don’t have time to learn new skills,” Hickenlooper said.

Instead, the state also needs to offer child care for the parents while they improve their training, he said.

He cautioned against workers failing to upgrade their skills as computers make more of their jobs outdated. He used the example of bank tellers, whose jobs are being replaced by ATM machines and other robots.

The tellers should be retraining for information technology that will not be outdated soon, Hickenlooper said.

“Someone’s going to be servicing those robots,” he said.

Reggie Bicha, director of the Colorado Human Services Department, said cooperation to reduce poverty produces better results than trying to force compliance onto someone.

He gave the example of deadbeat parents who fall behind on child support. Garnishing their wages or taking away their drivers’ licenses often forces them to make their child support payments, he said.

The Colorado Human Services Department has obtained even better results by assigning case managers to the families to mediate agreements with them.

“What we found is that more of these folks pay their child support compared with the control group,” Bicha said.

Bicha said he’s using the last months of the Hickenlooper administration to coordinate public assistance, such as Medicaid, food programs and child care. He wants to streamline the application process through a website.

Tom Ramstack

Tom Ramstack