Colorado Works


Jason and Isabel's Story

Jason’s family was having a difficult time making ends meet. Up until a month ago, he was able to support his wife Isabel and their young daughter through his job as a cashier at a local grocery store. Then the grocery store laid some people off. Jason lost his job, but he didn't qualify for unemployment benefits.

Jason and Isabel didn’t have much money in savings. They realized that they were going to have trouble paying for rent, food, and utilities. They decided to apply for help until they could get back on their feet. Jason had a disability. He had applied for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) at his local Social Security office in the past, and had been told that his disability didn’t meet their definition of disability. So he knew he didn’t qualify to get SSI benefits.

So Jason went online to Colorado PEAK, gathered together all the information he needed based on the online examples of required documents, and applied for Colorado Works online. In a few days he got a phone call setting up an appointment for Isabel and Jason to meet with Maria, an eligibility worker.

Maria asked them a series of questions about their family, living situation, and work history, and reviewed their valid identification, and other required documents. Because Jason had checked the list online, he had brought everything they needed to the appointment.

"You only applied for Colorado Works, but if you qualify for Colorado Works, you might also be able to get SNAP and Health First Colorado (Medicaid)," Maria told them. "I'll add SNAP (formerly Food Stamps) and Health First Colorado (Medicaid) to your application, so if you qualify you'll get all three."

Several weeks later, Jason and his family got a letter saying they were approved for Colorado Works. Since they didn’t have any income, they get the maximum benefit for a family with two caretakers (parents) and one child, $585 a month.

Next, Jason and Isabel met with their case manager, Carol, to come up with a plan to get them jobs.

Isabel needed just a few more classes to complete her training as an x-ray technician, but had put those plans on hold when they had their child. Her Individualized Plan included finishing those credits and then searching for a job.

Jason’s plan was a little different because of his disability. He thought that maybe he could work from home doing customer service over the phone. His plan included a one-week customer service training program and then searching for a job.

Jason and Isabel had two concerns about working.

“Ok, so I’d love to go back to school,” Isabel said, “but what about my little girl? I can’t afford to pay someone to watch her.”

“I'll give you a referral to the Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP)," Carol told them. "Because you're on Colorado Works now, you'll be able to bypass the waiting list and get subsidized child care more quickly."

“Great!” said Isabel. “That solves that problem.”

“But what happens when one of us starts working?" Jason asked. "Won’t our benefits go down? Won’t we be even more broke then?”

“Not necessarily,” Carol reassured them. “It depends on many factors. But no matter how much money you make, Colorado Works only counts 33% of what you earn. So you’ll still be eligible for benefits until you get back on track. Plus you’ll have even more money than just being on Colorado Works alone.”

Jason and Isabel left the meeting with their case manager feeling like things were looking up. With a little help, they’d be back on their feet soon enough.

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