Nov 20, 2019

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ANNOUNCEMENT: Burnes Institute partners with CCLP

by | Nov 20, 2019

A generous gift from Donald W. and Lynn K. Burnes will give Coloradans more insights on how public policies can improve outcomes for Coloradans experiencing poverty.

The Burnes will provide Colorado Center on Law and Policy with funding and Don will provide his expertise to support CCLP’s current research and ensure that the organization’s legislative and legal advocacy work is evidence-based, while advancing a racial-equity and anti-poverty agenda. The funding will create The Burnes Institute for Poverty Research at CCLP. The Burnes also founded the Burnes Center at the University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work, where they were the lead donors.

The co-author of three books on poverty, Burnes has served as an executive director for various nonprofits. He is a historian, researcher and consultant on policy and philanthropy. Burnes received his bachelor’s degree from Princeton University, a master’s degree from Washington University in St. Louis and a PhD from Columbia University Teachers’ College. He has studied issues and policies around poverty for more than 30 years.

Founded in 1998, Colorado Center on Law and Policy is a nonprofit research, legislative and legal advocacy organization committed to promoting racial equity and economic security for Coloradans facing poverty. The organization works on issues pertaining to affordable housing, health care, food and income. CCLP’s numerous accomplishments include helping to establish a statewide Earned Income Tax Credit and playing a leading role in Colorado’s decision to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act – giving roughly 250,000 more Coloradans access to health care coverage.

Through research and policy analysis, CCLP and its partners develop ideas to bridge the gaps in the economy so that all Coloradans have a chance to thrive. CCLP works in partnership with the advocacy community to provide the data and analysis that support meaningful policy change. For example, in 2017 CCLP partnered with Colorado Coalition for the Homeless in reviewing eviction cases in Denver County Court. The findings of the report, entitled Facing Eviction Alone, suggested that most evictions could be avoided if tenants were represented by an attorney. The report received wide press coverage and prompted the city of Denver to establish its first-ever eviction defense fund. The study may have been the impetus for the approval of Senate Bill 180, which CCLP developed in the 2019 legislative session. The bill established a $750,000 legal defense fund to help Coloradans facing eviction.

CCLP’s research and analysis portfolio includes The Self-Sufficiency Standard for Colorado, a comprehensive measure of how much income families of various sizes and compositions need to make ends meet without public or private assistance. It also releases the annual State of Working Colorado, a compendium of data that shows how Colorado’s economy is performing for workers across the income spectrum, among numerous reports and issue briefs.

“As I look to the future of our Institute and of CCLP at large, I see exciting opportunities to affect systemic change in Colorado and throughout the nation,” said Burnes in a recent blog posting for CCLP. “Together, we can expand our research capacity — especially as we collaborate with research and service partners around the state.”

Tiffani Lennon, CCLP’s Executive Director, emphasized that the partnership will enhance CCLP’s ability to produce high-quality research to inform its policy and legal agenda.

“This gift for the Burnes Institute will allow us to expand our influential evidence-based work,” Lennon said. “I’m grateful to Don and Lynn and so very pleased for CCLP.”

For more information, contact Bob Mook, CCLP’s Director of Communications at or at 303-573-5669, ext. 311.

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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.


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.


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.


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.