May 2, 2022

Margaret "Maggie" Lea served as Grants Manager for Mile High Connects until its closure in 2022. In this capacity she was responsible for advancing MHC's collaborative work through data & evaluation, communications, and collective support and investment, and she played a key role in cultivating and sustaining local and regional partnerships.

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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.

MHC Closes Its Doors

by | May 2, 2022

Nonprofit organizations exist not only to be mission-driven but to be mission-accomplished. After an impactful 10-year journey, Mile High Connects has reached that pivotal point where we’ve accomplished the goals we were launched to achieve. While the work of systems change and equitable coalition-building is certainly not over, Mile High Connects—in its current iteration— has expended all it possessed to strengthen the region, and now it’s time to close our doors to make way for a new coalition of partners to emerge.  

Our Origins & Evolution Over the Years
Mile High Connects was launched in 2011 in response to the region’s rapid impending growth, most notably the reinvestment in our public transportation system, RTD’s FasTracks, and the expensive redevelopment that our founders knew would come as a result. Simultaneously, our nation was reeling from the lingering effects of the greatest housing and economic crisis since the Great Depression.  

Our founding partners knew that addressing the monumental issues of affordable housing and mobility required a coordinated approach- rooted in collaboration and equity- among diverse stakeholders. A collaborative, then known as Mile High Transit-Oriented Collaborative (MHTOC), was formed with one goal in mind — opportunity for all through transit.   

In the years since, Mile High Connects and its partners have made capital more accessible to community developers through the Denver Metro Transit-Oriented Development Fund (TOD Fund), successfully advocated for affordable transit, and promoted equitable policies and practices at the local and state levels.   

All of these accomplishments have been juxtaposed to an evolving region where there are compounding economic, health, and climate crises.   

Like our region, our Collaborative has evolved—from one centered on equitable mobility solutions to one focused on equitable development and community & cultural preservation. As we have grown, we have worked to build the biggest table possible, sharing our knowledge, connections, and financial resources, while constantly asking ourselves, “who is missing from the table” and “are we best suited to meet the goals at hand”?  Over the past year, the Mile High Connects steering committee and staff reflected deeply on these questions and concluded it is time to make way for an emerging coalition of partners with dedicated expertise in advocacy, development, and awareness building to assist communities in realizing equitable developmental community and cultural preservation.  

Looking Back While Looking Forward
Mile High Connects would not be here today without the dedication and support of countless partner organizations, community and national foundations, individual leaders, and community organizers. We invite all of you to join us on this transitional journey as we celebrate over ten years of collaborative success in our region and set the table for a new coalition to be born.   

We will update you along the way as the new coalition takes shape to shepherd the work in our evolving region. To start, you will hear from the coalition members as they share their commitment to the work moving forward and what it means for their respective organizations. Along the way, we’ll share updates as the coalition formalizes its approach and vision for metro Denver’s future.  

With over ten years of relationship building and collaboration, there are literally hundreds of voices and stories related to the work we’ve done together. We are committed to hearing from those who have inspired us and shared lessons along the way as we sought to build a more equitable Denver metro region. These narratives will be compiled into a final dispatch to you, our community, in the hopes that the spirit of Mile High Connects can continue through each of you. We hope to celebrate and reflect on this collective impact together this summer and will provide details about that opportunity.  

We are excited about the possibilities that lie ahead. Onward!  

Sincerely,  

Deyanira  Zavala                                                              
Executive Director                                                     
dzavala@milehighconnects.org    

Donna Garnett
Steering Committee Chairperson

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.