May 19, 2016

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Recent articles

CCLP testifies in support of Clean Slate updates

Bethany Pray, CCLP’s Chief Legal and Policy Officer, provided testimony in support of House Bill 24-1133, Criminal Record Sealing & Expungement Changes. CCLP is in support of HB24-1133, as it is one of our priority bills.

CCLP testifies in support of TANF grant rule change

CCLP's Emeritus Advisor, Chaer Robert, provided written testimony in support of the CDHS rule on the COLA increase for TANF recipients. If the rule is adopted, the cost of living increase would go into effect on July 1, 2024.

Community-University Partnership: The CU Denver Department of Planning & Design and Mile High Connects

by | May 19, 2016

An urban planner’s “primary obligation is to serve the public interest.” The planner’s code of ethics states planners must be conscious of individual rights; concerned about the long-range consequences of present actions; understand the interrelatedness of decisions; provide information on planning issues that affect citizens; engage people in the decision-making process; seek social justice by expanding choice and opportunity for all persons; promote design excellence that preserves and conserves the natural and built environment; and deal fairly with all those in the planning process (AICP Code of Ethics, Adopted 2005[1]).  To that end, supporting the multi-pronged agenda of Mile High Connects is a natural fit for the CU Denver Department of Planning and Design. Our department believes that Mile High Connects’ work epitomizes ethical planning, and we support this work through collaborative research, advising students on capstone projects for Mile High Connects, serving on Mile High Connects Advisory Committee, and connecting Mile High Connects and its partners with other resources and organizations that can support their work.

Research: Our current research supporting Mile High Connects’ work focuses on transit equity, including access, quality, and affordability. We are wrapping up the results from a Transit Equity & Well-Being survey of 230 residents in Montbello, Green Valley Ranch, Northeast Park Hill and La Alma/Lincoln Park. The survey asked residents about their reasons for using, or not using, transit; to which of the 12 most common destinations they regularly took transit; whether their ability to access certain destinations or commitments has been hampered by transit issues; and how they would rate their social well-being on seven life domains: economic, health, community, relationships, happiness, learning, and satisfaction. The study results will help to inform Mile High Connects’ work on promoting improved bus and rail transit access to all neighborhoods in Denver, and particularly those with the greatest need. More specifically, the findings will reinforce the importance of Mile High Connects’ interrelated strategy to leverage transit for jobs, housing, and neighborhood improvement. In the survey, heavy transit users, who generally were more likely to earn lower incomes, did not report high levels of satisfaction with their health, although they were more likely to walk and bike to destinations. They also reported lower satisfaction with what they were achieving in life, their standard of living, and their future. However, those who regularly used transit to access at least six of the 12 destinations were significantly more likely to report greater satisfaction with feeling a part of their community. Conversely, participants that had at least one job reported higher levels of satisfaction with their health, relationships, feeling a part of the community, and their future. Surprisingly, employment status was not associated with respondents’ satisfaction with their living standard, feelings of safety or security, or what they had achieved in life. This research shows the importance of looking at additional outcome measures when identifying the benefits of the physical characteristics of place. Further applied research will help to identify how to devise strategies that combine targeted social services, job training, and other place-based supports, as well as physical designs and funding sources that improve transit accessibility.

Through research and advisement, we also are supporting MHC’s work to identify funding to pay for the 50/150 Affordable Fare Campaign. With Gary Community Investments, Enterprise Community Partners, and health care groups, we submitted a proposal to Robert Woods Johnson’s Culture of Health grant program. If funded, the grant would help us to launch a Pay for Performance pilot. The pilot would issue affordable fares to clients of public service providers throughout the Denver region. The goal is to identify the financial and social benefits to both the participants and the providers from more affordable accessibility via public transit. The measurable benefits could be captured and used to fund the remaining gap in the 50/150 campaign.

In 2014, we were actively involved in the Sustainable Communities Initiative grant from HUD that Mile High Connects helped to secure with DRCOG. The results of our study of the transit stations in the region in terms of affordability, development, employment, and accessibility, and to develop an affordable housing strategy for the Gold Corridor are available from DRCOG and on our Masters of Urban and Regional Planning Community Website. The reports provide detailed geographic, demographic, and economic information for each of the existing stations and the future stations along the Gold corridor. The Gold Corridor Housing Strategy also identifies tools and policies the cities and counties along the Gold Corridor could adopt to improve the sustainability of the area, including maintaining and increasing affordability.

Student Capstone Projects: In the last few years, Mile High Connects has  been a client for several CU Denver Master of Urban and Regional Planning students’ Capstone projects, including work on first-last mile connections, lifeline routes, and anchor institutions. Through the Capstone process, Mile High Connects and the student define the project together and our department’s faculty members provide oversight and guidance on the methods, analysis, and report of findings. These interactions allow students to learn how research and technical assistance can support grassroots advocacy, coalition building, and policy making to improve equity throughout the region, while applying the skills they learned in their other classes.

The CU Denver Department of Planning and Design is committed to this ongoing relationship and the multiple benefits it provides for learning, community engagement, policy making, and, most importantly, improving access to opportunity for all residents in the Denver region.

[1] American Planning Association. 2005. AICP Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct. Available from https://www.planning.org/ethics/ethicscode.htm.

Recent articles

CCLP testifies in support of Clean Slate updates

Bethany Pray, CCLP’s Chief Legal and Policy Officer, provided testimony in support of House Bill 24-1133, Criminal Record Sealing & Expungement Changes. CCLP is in support of HB24-1133, as it is one of our priority bills.

CCLP testifies in support of TANF grant rule change

CCLP's Emeritus Advisor, Chaer Robert, provided written testimony in support of the CDHS rule on the COLA increase for TANF recipients. If the rule is adopted, the cost of living increase would go into effect on July 1, 2024.

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.