Mar 26, 2020

The co-author of three books on poverty, Donald Burnes has served as an executive director for various nonprofits. Culminating a longtime commitment to advancing racial equity and fighting poverty, Donald W. and Lynn K. Burnes gave a generous gift to Colorado Center on Law and Policy, creating The Burnes Institute for Poverty Research at CCLP.

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CCLP’s 2024 legislative wrap-up, part 2

CCLP's 2024 legislative wrap-up focused on expanding access to justice, removing administrative burden, supporting progressive tax and wage policies, preserving affordable communities, and reducing health care costs. Part 2/2.

CCLP’s 2024 legislative wrap-up, part 1

CCLP's 2024 legislative wrap-up focused on expanding access to justice, removing administrative burden, supporting progressive tax and wage policies, preserving affordable communities, and reducing health care costs.

Another perspective on Covid-19

by | Mar 26, 2020

Throughout the huge explosion in attention to the coronavirus pandemic, we have been told that those most at risk of both catching the disease and of suffering major health situations as a result of the disease include those over the age of 60 and those who have significant chronic ailments, such as diabetes, cardio-vascular issues and pulmonary conditions.

A recent article The New York Times suggests that there may well be a third factor that puts people at increased risk, namely poverty. As the authors state, “Health organizations have said that people over age 70 are at drastically greater risk of dying from the coronavirus. But the research on chronic health conditions suggests that the threshold may be as low as 55 for people of lower socioeconomic status.” The authors also indicate that far fewer at the bottom of the income ladder have access to paid sick leave than those at the top; Many Americans have deferred health care, doctor-recommended tests, and medications because they couldn’t afford it; and 20 percent of food service employees who are sick have gone to work for fear of losing their jobs.

For those experiencing homelessness, the circumstances are even worse. As the March 16 message from the Metro Denver Homelessness Initiative indicates, “Unlike those of us who are housed, [those experiencing homelessness] do not have a place to isolate.” They can’t wash their hands on a regular basis, and such items as hand sanitizers, so critical in times of a rapidly spreading virus, are almost always very difficult for them to obtain. Furthermore, because of compromised health conditions to start with, many of them immediately fall into the group at significant risk of contracting the disease and of suffering serious medical issues from the disease, including death. Given that the average lifespan for someone experiencing homelessness is between 42 and 52, some 30-40 years earlier than for the average American, the increased risk from the coronavirus may shorten that life span even more over the next several months.

Though the situation may seem dire, people with time and resources can help those facing poverty and homelessness by volunteering, making a financial contribution, and contacting local, state, and federal officials to create additional help and support, among others.

For example, The National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty indicated in its most recent press release that: none of the COVID-19 relief bills in Congress to date have provided additional funding for those serving homeless populations; and Congress has not yet placed a nationwide moratorium on evictions and foreclosures. Ask your elected representatives to correct these oversights.

Colorado Center on Law and Policy is dedicated to advocating for improved measures to assist those across the state who are poverty-stricken or experiencing homelessness in the midst of this national health crisis; consider contributing to CCLP through their website,

For those of you who wish to donate to Colorado Center on Law and Policy, or if you wish to volunteer, consider Colorado Coalition for the Homeless for opportunities. The Metro Denver Homeless Initiative also has a list of nonprofits that need volunteer help. To reach them, go to the MDHI website.

In summary, do whatever you can to assist in addressing this dreaded illness, especially those efforts to help those in extreme poverty and homelessness. Many need help, so do whatever you can to help them now.

– By Donald Burnes

Recent articles

CCLP’s 2024 legislative wrap-up, part 2

CCLP's 2024 legislative wrap-up focused on expanding access to justice, removing administrative burden, supporting progressive tax and wage policies, preserving affordable communities, and reducing health care costs. Part 2/2.

CCLP’s 2024 legislative wrap-up, part 1

CCLP's 2024 legislative wrap-up focused on expanding access to justice, removing administrative burden, supporting progressive tax and wage policies, preserving affordable communities, and reducing health care costs.


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.