Oct 13, 2023

An expert in policy advocacy and coalition building, Chaer has dedicated her career to helping people meet their basic needs and expanding economic opportunity. She serves on the executive committee of the All Families Deserve a Chance (AFDC) coalition. Staff page ›

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CCLP awarded 2023 Spring Intercultural Champion by Spring Institute

by | Oct 13, 2023

Colorado Center on Law and Policy was awarded 2023 Spring Intercultural Champion by the Spring Institute. Chaer Robert, CCLP’s Legislative Director, accepted the award on the organization’s behalf with her acceptance speech provided below. 


I am truly honored to accept this award on behalf of Colorado Center on Law and Policy. In my 10 years with CCLP and coordinating the Skills2Compete Colorado Coalition. Working with Paula Schriefer and the Spring Institute staff has been a tremendous amount of fun, and our mutually supportive partnership has accomplished plenty. Colorado is so lucky to have an organization like Spring Institute to ensure the state values the perspective, skills, energy, and talent that refugees and immigrants bring to this state. Spring Institute builds a sense of community between its participants from different cultures and opens the policy world to the voices, needs and contributions of refugees and immigrants.  

With her energetic leadership, Paula had an immediate impact when she became the head of Spring Institute. During the years that refugee admissions dried to a trickle, Spring Institute expanded its scope and offerings to immigrants already in Colorado, such as the Welcome Back Program and the Interpreter network. Paula lit up the National Skills Coalition conference we attended together, highlighting the critical role of Adult Education in the spectrum of workforce training. 

Through the years Skills2Compete worked with Spring Institute and Mathew Mengesha on their legislative agenda, including allowing in-state tuition for refugees who were translators for the military, establishing the Office of New Americans [within the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment], and credentialling International Medical graduates. Spring Institute supported us in our work to establish an employment support services fund to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit and pay a state-level Child Tax Credit.  

In 2013, CCLP worked on a bill to establish state funding (although it was less than $1 million statewide) for Adult Education programs that partnered with workforce training and placement programs. In 2020, Spring Institute led the drive to add partnerships with the K-12 system to eligibility for funding in recognition of parents who were helping their children with literacy and academic success. This year, Paula led the charge for more funding, particularly for Adult Basic Education for students who are in earlier stages of learning to increase literacy and numeracy. The bill also added digital literacy to the scope of Adult Education. Teachers were already helping their students (and often themselves) adapt to the online world during the pandemic. This bill acknowledged that work. The bill did pass, and it tripled state funding for Adult Education, increasing it from less than $1 million statewide to $3 million statewide. This extra funding should enable more programs to be funded across the state and potentially to increase the funding level. For too long Colorado could fund only a small number of Adult Education providers across the state with state funding, based on grant competition, with modest funding that barely paid to hire a teacher let alone fund a whole program.  

Spring Institute for Intercultural Learning has been an inspirational and important partner in the work of Colorado Center on Law and Policy and the Skills2Compete Coalition in the extensive Digital Equity, Literacy, and Inclusion Initiative that Skills2Compete began in 2020. Laura Ware and Charles Brennan [from CCLP] were lead staff on this. This particular work, and the increased collaboration between CCLP and Spring Institute expanded in 2021-23 as the state, nation, and world found itself increasingly relying on digital technology. The use of different devices and equipment, and affordable connectivity at the local and statewide level and access to responsive skill-building opportunities and support to adopt the use of technology on a daily basis became a critical need. This collaboration led to receiving some funding that focused on how technology and its required use was having positive or potentially adverse impacts on different populations, and what recommendations should be made to state agencies to address these different impacts.   

This Digital Equity, Literacy, and Inclusion Initiative and the related collaboration by CCLP, Spring Institute, and a third community partner—Center for Work Education Employment (CWEE)—facilitated listening sessions, interviews, and surveys with different communities across Colorado. We share our findings with each other, the Skills2Compete Coalition, and the state agencies and other stakeholders who are promoting digital access in all parts of Colorado.

Spring Institute has been instrumental in reaching individuals and communities that would otherwise be overlooked during these listening sessions and collection of perspectives. As a result, these findings will help to influence how public funding is allocated in different areas over the next two to three years. Skills2Compete values the involvement of Spring Institute in its work more than can be expressed, and hearing the perspectives of adult learners, including those in ESL (English as a Second Language) programs. Spring’s work has been key in submitting recommendations for the State Digital Equity Plan that truly represent Colorado communities.  

Thank you to Spring Institute for your amazing and unique work that enriches the overall reach of Skills2Compete, and for this special recognition to Colorado Center on Law and Policy, today.  A special thank you to Amanda Bent and Paula Shriefer along with Emily Ochoa for their commitment to performing these diverse listening sessions and surveys. 

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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.