Mar 27, 2018

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Affordable Fares Update: MHC reinforces RTD’s effort to realize affordable fares

by | Mar 27, 2018

After a year long effort by RTD’s Pass Program Working Group the future of equitable fares is now sitting in the hands of RTD staff and board. Mile High Connects (MHC), a member of the Pass Program Working Group, is on hand and ready to help. MHC’s experience dates back to 2014 when the first Affordable Fares Task Force of over 100 public, nonprofit, philanthropic and private sector partners was convened by MHC to advocate for affordability in the fare structure. MHC recognizes the challenge facing RTD staff both in the planning and implementation phases of an equitable fare structure, but also wants RTD to understand that they aren’t in this alone.

MHC and its network of partners are fully prepared to deploy their diverse resources to assist RTD staff with developing an implementation strategy. MHC recognizes that implementation will require some work but we urge RTD to take a problem solving approach and reach out to their community of experts ready to help.  The Denver metro region cannot afford to let the “design complexity” hinder access to affordable fares . Making Denver a more equitable place to live and work starts with ensuring that our public transportation system – and the economic opportunities it provides – is both affordable and accessible to all.

RTD’s staff will make their first public report to the board of directors regarding the Pass Program Working Group’s recommendation to modify the existing discount pass program on Tues. March 27th at 5:30 pm. RTD first committed to creating an equitable pass program and convened a 25-member working group and hired a consulting firm to assist the group in evaluating the existing program over a year ago. The group completed its yearlong effort in February 2018, recommended 40 percent discount for low-income riders and a youth pass where riders under 12 are free and riders aged 13-19 receive a 70 percent discount.

The complete recommendation made by the working group and details of the proposed changes can be viewed on RTD’s Pass Program Working Group webpage. MHC will continue to advocate for a 50 percent discount for low-income riders recognizing that implementation of 40 percent discount will represent significant progress. 

To Date organizations such as The Denver Foundation9to5United for a New Economy, Colorado Cross Disability CoalitionDenver Women’s CollaborativeMi Casa Resource CenterCultivandoDenverWorksBayaud EnterprisesColorado Fiscal Institute, West Denver Business Improvement District, Urban Peakthe Denver Post Editorial BoardThe New York Times and others have voiced their support for equitable fares. Now is the time for the Denver Metro Region to move forward with a new pass program.

For those with the lowest levels of mobility and income, affordable transit can have significant and positive implications for social and economic inclusion. It’s time RTD’s commitment to building equity is put into action … Stand with MHC in support #FairFaresRTD to ensure that youth and low-income people have a chance to get to class on time, to that job interview, to that higher-paying job, to the grocery store or to that first-time home-buyer class. Attend the next RTD Board Meeting and make a public comment, call and send your elected RTD Board Director an email, and sign the petition created by Together Colorado.

View a list of RTD Board Members by county

Recent articles

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.