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Gov. Polis signs laws to protect some of most vulnerable Coloradans

Gov. Jared Polis signed several bills into law on Monday that are aimed at protecting both older and younger Coloradans.

Senate Bill 23-261, by by Senators Jessie Danielson and Tony Exum along with Representatives Monica Duran and Jenny Willford, creates a board to address low wages, long hours and other issues contributing to high turnover in the healthcare industry.

Colorado is the second-fastest aging state in the country, with the population of 65 and over expected to grow 49% by 2030, but there is a shortage of home health care workers.

The new law creates the Direct Care Workforce Stabilization Board within the Colorado Division of Labor and Employment to study issues leading to high turnover and make recommendations aimed at addressing those issues to the legislature.

Polis also signed bills to help foster youth in Colorado. 

Senate Bill 23-082, by Senators Rachel Zenzinger and Barbara Kirkmeyer and Representatives Judy Amabile and Dafna Michaelson Jenet, creates a housing voucher program for foster youth aged 18 to 26, who have aged out of the foster care system but have trouble finding housing. 

The National Youth in Transition database, which is an annual survey of youth transitioning out of foster care, found 36% of youth ages 19-21 in Colorado have experienced homelessness in the last two year.

At one point, homelessness studies have found former foster youth make up as much as 50% of the homeless population. 

The new law provides 100 housing vouchers for foster youth every year and $1.4 million for counties to provide case management for those who receive the vouchers.

Another measure was House Bill 23-1024, by Representatives Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez and Elisabeth Epps and Senators Tony Exum and Kevin Van Winkle, which ensures kids who are removed from their home are placed with relatives when possible. 

It requires the Department of Human Services to use reasonable efforts to help relatives, who want temporary custody but can't afford it and also requires courts to give preference to relatives when placing a child, while creating a rebuttable presumption that placement with relatives is in the child's best interest.

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