John Moore, 55, was delivering pizzas in Colorado Springs to support his freelance photography when his car broke down, he lost his job and his housing.
"The next thing you know you are homeless and it happens just like that," Moore said, snapping his fingers.
He was living in the Salvation Army shelter when he learned about Colorado's ReHire program, a $1.2 million pilot project that pays the wages of unemployed and hard-to-employ individuals for 11 weeks while they receive job training and employment counseling.
About 700 people have landed permanent jobs through the program since it began in January 2014, but the pilot program will expire unless lawmakers reauthorize it this session. A bill hasn't been introduced, but Reggie Bicha, the executive director of the Colorado Department of Human Services, came to Colorado Springs Thursday to highlight the program's successes.
"It seems to be working," he said. "Seventy-seven percent of the people who are participating in ReHire Colorado over the last two years have continued their employment without subsidy."
Bicha is asking lawmakers to budget $2.4 million a year for the program through 2021. Gov. John Hickenlooper made room for the program in his budget proposal, but it will be up to lawmakers to reauthorize it. The Colorado Springs program is operated by Discover Goodwill. In Pueblo it's Catholic Charities. There are ReHire programs in 13 counties.
"I think it's a great investment," he said. "We are providing them a subsidy. It's a wage that is actually taxed. It's a wage that for those who are in the child support program, part of it is going to pay their child support ... and it's an investment not just in the people who are in the program, but you heard from the small business owner an investment in her company," Bicha said.
Kattiana Rivera, 30, struggled to find work in Maryland for nine months after she and her boyfriend moved from Puerto Rico. She was waiting tables despite having a bachelor's degree in communications.
Rivera was referred to the ReHire program when she and her boyfriend applied for unemployment and food stamps after moving to Colorado Springs.
After one week she was hired as a caseworker for El Paso County's Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.
"It has been wonderful," Rivera said, whose boyfriend also received a job through the program.
Bicha said Colorado State University is in the middle of a study to determine the effectiveness of the program, but that study won't be available for six to 12 months because the sample size isn't big enough. Preliminary data will be available in a month, however.
Rep. Daneya Esgar, D-Pueblo, and Rep. Tracy Kraft-Tharp, D-Arvada, are expected to introduce the bill in the coming weeks.
Contact Megan Schrader: 286-0644