Jan 6, 2016

An expert in policy advocacy and coalition building, Chaer leads CCLP’s work to help people meet their basic needs and expand economic opportunity. She also coordinates the Skills2Compete Colorado Coaliton and serves on the executive committee of the All Families Deserve a Chance (AFDC) coalition. Staff page ›

Recent articles

25th anniversary recap

On August 10, 2023, CCLP celebrated our 25th anniversary, bringing friends new and old to the Carriage House at the Governor's Residence.

Grant to forge pathways from homelessness

by | Jan 6, 2016

Many Coloradans become homeless after losing a job because it’s nearly impossible to pay rent without sufficient income and savings. To further complicate matters, it’s much more difficult to search for employment without stable housing. In metro Denver, over 30 percent of those experiencing homelessness have worked in the past month. But in today’s economy, the reliability and consistency of work hours may vary — particularly for those with the lowest-wage jobs.

Recently, the Colorado Center on Law and Policy (CCLP) received a significant grant from the Butler Family Fund that is designed to improve employment prospects for Colorado’s homeless population by streamlining education, skills training and support services that will help them secure better-paying jobs. The grant will enable CCLP to advocate for specific provisions in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) State Implementation Plan to better serve those who have recently experienced homelessness. CCLP will then take its advocacy a step farther by addressing the needs of homeless people at the workforce-center level. WIOA was approved by Congress and President Obama in 2014, but Colorado’s WIOA State Implementation Plan must be submitted by March 3, 2016.

Under the new WIOA, workforce boards and job centers are supposed to pivot. While still employer driven, they are required to give priority of service to populations who have barriers to employment –including those who lack basic skills, those who rely on public assistance, youth who are out-of-school and out-of-work and those experiencing homelessness. This will require a significant shift in the planning and implementation of WIOA funded services here in Colorado.

Passage of WIOA did not include new funding, but it did call for improved coordination between groups that serve job-seekers and employers. The Butler Family Fund grant will support CCLP’s efforts to work with policymakers and administrators in workforce-related positions to ensure that WIOA implementation enhances the opportunity for Colorado’s most vulnerable population.

The grant will step up CCLP’s work with WIOA as it pertains to Colorado’s homeless population. CCLP is already immersed in the WIOA planning process. For over three years, we have coordinated the Skills2Compete Colorado Coalition, which advocated for WIOA’s passage on a national level in partnership with the National Skills Coalition.

In implementing the grant, CCLP will work with specific individuals, groups and coalitions either through attending their regular meetings, or through one-on-one meetings or convening as a group. The groups include the Employment Subcommittee of Denver’s Road Home, the Metro Denver Homeless Initiative and Colorado’s Director of Homeless Initiatives. In addition, there are a number of direct-service providers serving the homeless with whom we have worked on other poverty-related issues.

The Butler Family Fund invests in organizations, partnerships and networks that change public policy to support the people most affected by extreme poverty. With a longstanding interest in ending homelessness, the fund has most recently focused on investments in programs and collaborations that create pathways out of homelessness through employment.

We are honored that the Butler Family Fund is entrusting us to advocate for a state plan that will ultimately help more Coloradans secure employment and leave homelessness behind.

– By Chaer Robert

Recent articles

25th anniversary recap

On August 10, 2023, CCLP celebrated our 25th anniversary, bringing friends new and old to the Carriage House at the Governor's Residence.

HEALTH:
HEALTH FIRST COLORADO (MEDICAID)

To maintain health and well-being, people of all ages need access to quality health care that improves outcomes and reduces costs for the community. Health First Colorado, the state's Medicaid program, is public health insurance for low-income Coloradans who qualify. The program is funded jointly by a federal-state partnership and is administered by the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy & Financing.

Benefits of the program include behavioral health, dental services, emergency care, family planning services, hospitalization, laboratory services, maternity care, newborn care, outpatient care, prescription drugs, preventive and wellness services, primary care and rehabilitative services.

In tandem with the Affordable Care Act, Colorado expanded Medicaid eligibility in 2013 - providing hundreds of thousands of adults with incomes less than 133% FPL with health insurance for the first time increasing the health and economic well-being of these Coloradans. Most of the money for newly eligible Medicaid clients has been covered by the federal government, which will gradually decrease its contribution to 90% by 2020.

Other populations eligible for Medicaid include children, who qualify with income up to 142% FPL, pregnant women with household income under 195% FPL, and adults with dependent children with household income under 68% FPL.

Some analyses indicate that Colorado's investment in Medicaid will pay off in the long run by reducing spending on programs for the uninsured.

FOOD SECURITY:
SUPPLEMENTAL NUTRITION ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (SNAP)

Hunger, though often invisible, affects everyone. It impacts people's physical, mental and emotional health and can be a culprit of obesity, depression, acute and chronic illnesses and other preventable medical conditions. Hunger also hinders education and productivity, not only stunting a child's overall well-being and academic achievement, but consuming an adult's ability to be a focused, industrious member of society. Even those who have never worried about having enough food experience the ripple effects of hunger, which seeps into our communities and erodes our state's economy.

Community resources like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food Stamps, exist to ensure that families and individuals can purchase groceries, with the average benefit being about $1.40 per meal, per person.

Funding for SNAP comes from the USDA, but the administrative costs are split between local, state, and federal governments. Yet, the lack of investment in a strong, effective SNAP program impedes Colorado's progress in becoming the healthiest state in the nation and providing a better, brighter future for all. Indeed, Colorado ranks 44th in the nation for access to SNAP and lost out on more than $261 million in grocery sales due to a large access gap in SNAP enrollment.

See the Food Assistance (SNAP) Benefit Calculator to get an estimate of your eligibility for food benefits.

FOOD SECURITY:
SPECIAL SUPPLEMENTAL NUTRITION PROGRAM FOR WOMEN, INFANTS AND CHILDREN (WIC)

Every child deserves the nutritional resources needed to get a healthy start on life both inside and outside the mother's womb. In particular, good nutrition and health care is critical for establishing a strong foundation that could affect a child's future physical and mental health, academic achievement and economic productivity. Likewise, the inability to access good nutrition and health care endangers the very integrity of that foundation.

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) provides federal grants to states for supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition information for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding postpartum women and to infants and children up to age five who are found to be at nutritional risk.

Research has shown that WIC has played an important role in improving birth outcomes and containing health care costs, resulting in longer pregnancies, fewer infant deaths, a greater likelihood of receiving prenatal care, improved infant-feeding practices, and immunization rates

Financial Security:
Colorado Works

In building a foundation for self-sufficiency, some Colorado families need some extra tools to ensure they can weather challenging financial circumstances and obtain basic resources to help them and their communities reach their potential.

Colorado Works is Colorado's Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program and provides public assistance to families in need. The Colorado Works program is designed to assist participants in becoming self-sufficient by strengthening the economic and social stability of families. The program provides monthly cash assistance and support services to eligible Colorado families.

The program is primarily funded by a federal block grant to the state. Counties also contribute about 20% of the cost.

EARLY LEARNING:
COLORADO CHILD CARE ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (CCCAP)

Child care is a must for working families. Along with ensuring that parents can work or obtain job skills training to improve their families' economic security, studies show that quality child care improves children's academic performance, career development and health outcomes.

Yet despite these proven benefits, low-income families often struggle with the cost of child care. Colorado ranks among the top 10 most expensive states in the country for center-based child care. For families with an infant, full-time enrollment at a child care center cost an average of $15,140 a year-or about three-quarters of the total income of a family of three living at the Federal Poverty Level (FPL).

The Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP) provides child care assistance to parents who are working, searching for employment or participating in training, and parents who are enrolled in the Colorado Works Program and need child care services to support their efforts toward self-sufficiency. Most of the money for CCCAP comes from the federal Child Care and Development Fund. Each county can set their own income eligibility limit as long as it is at or above 165% of the federal poverty level and does not exceed 85% of area median income.

Unfortunately, while the need is growing, only an estimated one-quarter of all eligible children in the state are served by CCCAP. Low reimbursement rates have also resulted in fewer providers willing to accept CCCAP subsidies.