Mar 17, 2016

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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ID program provides critical link for Colorado’s neediest families

by | Mar 17, 2016

It’s nearly impossible to get essentials such as health care, housing, employment and public benefits without a state-issued identification card. Citizens need a picture ID when opening a bank account, cashing a check and picking up prescriptions.

Unfortunately, obtaining an ID card can be nearly impossible for some of Colorado’s most vulnerable residents. The process often requires tracking down a birth certificate, a marriage certificate or a certified medical record. It takes time and money to secure such documents, some of which may need to be ordered from other states. It can easily cost $50 for just one document – a price that is prohibitively expensive for many low-income Coloradans.

There are often good reasons why these documents aren’t readily available. For example, seniors who were born at a home rather than a hospital might not have ever been issued a birth certificate. Others may have lost these documents in fires, floods or as a result of eviction. People fleeing domestic violence situations sometimes leave their documents behind and their abusers sometimes prevent access to their documents as a means of control.

Clearly, obtaining a photo ID is a critical conduit to getting Coloradans in difficult circumstances the care or services they need. Although a number of Colorado nonprofits provide assistance in helping people obtain an ID, these organizations generally don’t have the funds to pay the fees for the underlying documents on behalf of people in need – despite high demand.

To ensure that low-income Coloradans can access the legal documents needed to obtain an ID card, CCLP developed House Bill 1386, which would allow the Colorado ID Project to continue operating. HB1386 creates a $300,000 grant program to be administered by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. The funds will be used to assist with fees required to retrieve birth certificates, divorce and marriage decrees and other documents. Metro Caring serves as the lead agency for the Colorado ID project, which provided more than 4,800 forms of legal documents to low-income Coloradans in 2015.

As the lead agency, Metro Caring receives the funding and reimburses partner organizations who are involved in the project. A total of 22 Colorado organizations have committed to participate in the Colorado ID Project in 2016. These organizations help the client identify which documents are needed and then order or pay for the documents.

Considering that this program helps Colorado’s neediest citizens access basic services, including governmental services, the cost is nominal relative to the benefit. Indeed, legislators authorized such an expenditure last year, but legislation is needed to formalize the program so it can continue on an ongoing basis.

We encourage lawmakers to support HB 1386 and make a small – but critical — investment in the health and security of Coloradans who need it the most.

– Chaer Robert

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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.