Sep 24, 2019

Recent articles

Mehrsa Baradaran, Esq., tackles exclusion and inequality in America

by | Sep 24, 2019

Note: Mehrsa Baradaran, Esq. will be the keynote speaker at Colorado Center on Law and Policies 6th Annual Pathways from Poverty Breakfast, Oct. 17 at History Colorado Center. Seating is limited, so RSVP now.

Money dominates the conversation in today’s world. Whether its economic trends, changes in the stock market, or the value of global currencies, money, wealth and finance is a part of every individual’s private and public life.

It’s no secret, also, that our country’s financial capital is not evenly spread across different demographic groups. A topic of more recent prevalence has been a glaring problem in our nation’s economy and our family’s pockets: the racial wealth divide, or, the fact that Americans of color disproportionately poorer than white Americans.

The keynote speaker for our 6th Annual Pathways from Poverty Breakfast comes to us with a lifetime of expertise on this very issue. Mehrsa Baradaran, Esq. is a law professor with a specialty in banking law, which includes regulation, contracts and administrative law. She is currently a professor of banking law at the University of California, Irvine.

Baradaran’s deep interest in American inequality is informed by her life’s beginnings outside of it. She and her family immigrated to the United States from Orumieh, Iran, in 1986, just eight years after she was born. In 2017, she wrote an article for Slate about her experience as a refugee from a terrorist-designated country.

Her opening words in the interview were “In 1986, I was a 9-year-old Muslim immigrant from the ‘terrorist country’ of Iran trying to escape war and a revolution gone wrong. My mom (in a hijab), my dad, my two younger sisters, and I, each with bowl haircuts, stood in front of a U.S. bureaucrat sitting in her office. She looked us up and down deciding whether to accept or reject our visa application.” Baradaran goes on to write about how she worked hard to learn about American culture and say the Pledge of Allegiance in her classroom with pride, but also mentions the difficult parts of growing up as an immigrant. She ends the article with a message of hope about the future of immigrants in the country, saying “This is my home and I will keep working to make America great because I have so much hope in America.”

Baradaran attended Brigham Young University for her undergraduate degree, and her law degree from New York University. Before entering the field of higher education, she practiced law at the Davis, Polk & Wardwell financial institutions group in New York state. She also served on a mission in Houston, Texas.

Baradaran has published two critically acclaimed books that examine the racial wealth divide in America. Her first book, How the Other Half Banks: Exclusion, Exploitation, and the Threat to Democracy, was featured in The New York Times, The Atlantic, and The Financial Times, among others. The book highlights the corruption inherent in the banking industry, and how it is designed to profit off less-affluent, often minority, Americans.

Her second book, The Color of Money: Black Banks and the Racial Wealth Gap, dives deeply into the reasons behind the racial wealth divide, including the different manifestations of segregationist housing policies, racism and credit policies. She then discusses policies we could pursue to help close this gap and end the poverty cycle of inherited poverty. Her thoughts on these and other proposed solutions have been published by several news outlets, including the The New York Times, where she discussed the concept of “black capitalism” that emerged in the country as a result of the Nixon presidency, and its influences on President Trump’s “opportunity zones” intended to invest in under-served communities.

“These programs fail because the benefits of capitalism always accrue to the owners of the capital, not to the people living in enterprise zones or promise zones. Using capitalism to fix the racial wealth gap will work only if there is a means to transfer capital, assets, wealth or housing,” she says in the article.

Baradaran has received multiple awards for The Color of Money, including Best Book of the Year by the Urban Affairs Association, the PROSE Award Honorable Mention in the Business, Finance & Management category. She was also selected as a finalist at the 2018 Georgia Author of the Year Awards for the book in the category of history/biography.

In addition to publishing her books, Baradaran has also written several academic articles for established law review journals on concepts such as postal banking, the ILC, and “Jim Crow Credit,” including the Irvine Law Review, Vanderbilt Law Review, Harvard Law Review, Notre Dame Law Review, Emory Law Journal, George Washington Law Review, and the SMU Law Review. She has also been involved in the political sector, testifying before the United States Senate on digital currencies and blockchains.

Last July, Baradaran compelling and illuminating presentation at the Colorado Health Foundation’s Colorado Health Symposium, generated acclaim and positive feedback among event participants. She also contributed four sidebars to Matthew Desmond’s examination of how African slaves built capitalism in the Aug. 14 edition of The New York Times Magazine.

Join us for what’s certain to be an eye-opening keynote speech during our Pathways from Poverty Breakfast, Oct 17. Seating is limited, to RVSP now.

-By Duranya Freeman

Recent articles

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.