Jun 13, 2023

Bethany Pray serves as CCLP's Chief Legal and Policy Officer. Her areas of expertise include regulatory analysis and advocacy for Medicaid and commercial coverage, access to behavioral health benefits, Medicaid eligibility and much more.Staff page ›

Recent articles

CCLP’s 2024 legislative wrap-up, part 2

CCLP's 2024 legislative wrap-up focused on expanding access to justice, removing administrative burden, supporting progressive tax and wage policies, preserving affordable communities, and reducing health care costs. Part 2/2.

CCLP’s 2024 legislative wrap-up, part 1

CCLP's 2024 legislative wrap-up focused on expanding access to justice, removing administrative burden, supporting progressive tax and wage policies, preserving affordable communities, and reducing health care costs.

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.

On the verge of a new chapter

by | Jun 13, 2023

CCLP is on the verge of a new chapter, about to embark on our second quarter-century with new leadership, our soon-to-be Executive Director Lydia McCoy. Getting a fresh perspective – from an innovative, seasoned nonprofit leader – is a great gift. My stint, and my monthly newsletters, are drawing to an end, and I’m returning (phew!) to policy as CCLP’s Legal Director. 

That said, I am so proud of what the CCLP team has accomplished since last fall when I took the helm. We embarked on an experiment – being led by a long-standing member of the team, in a deliberately less hierarchical, more collaborative structure – while dealing with some tough issues. But I think we emerged as a more unified team, better for having come through this time together.  And I believe that has shown in our work.  

But before I get there, I want to extend a metaphorical bouquet of giant flowers for Deya Zavala, former Executive Director of Mile High Connects who served for several months as our Deputy Director. Deya was hugely instrumental in all these efforts to grow as a team and a culture. I want also to extend my greatest gratitude and praise to the staff of CCLP, some of whom took over my legal director duties, or took on new supervisory roles, or, despite being new to the organization, found their footing and brought their full selves to the work. 

We grappled with how to make CCLP more equitable. Talking about racial equity and bias, learning how to listen and sit with discomfort, is a struggle. After weeks of hearing people out, we shifted the decision-making from the management level to an internal committee that represents all corners of CCLP. This committee has resources at its disposal and the authority to tackle questions ranging from how we improve retention of BIPOC staff to the language of internal documents. 

 We continue to work to reduce burnout. An anti-poverty organization’s work is never done, and legislative, regulatory and community work can be all-consuming. We hate to say no when problems loom, or when community members reach out, and we are working to prioritize. Our growth over the last several years as an organization – with more staff, different funding sources, new approaches – meant internal systems needed to change as well. By being creative with schedules, and strategic with contractors, we are strengthening and supporting our staff. 

We are evolving into an organization that connects more mindfully with community groups and community members. In these last months, we’ve solidified policies for compensating community members. We are following through on projects to support community-based policy leaders and to strengthen neighborhoods. We have begun to implement a community engagement toolkit in all the areas where we work. Finally, we have restructured how we partner with other organizations, so that more of our funding gets passed through to those with direct community impact.  

As I’ve written in past newsletters, teamwork – with community members, with local advocates and government partners, and with national partners – is the basis for effective policy work, because all the players bring their own dynamic perspectives, skills, and networks. They stretch our thinking, expand our view of potential solutions. In the last nine months, I’ve seen that in the CCLP microcosm as well: we’ve solidified how we collaborate internally to great effect.  

Our closer bonds and tighter teamwork have helped us accomplish a lot in the last 9 months: 

  • Some great legislative wins that will put Coloradans on a better economic footing and protect access to better health (stay tuned for our Legislative Wrap-Up coming soon.) 
  • Progress in the implementation and enforcement work ensures that state and federal legislation is not just a promise, but a reality. We see increased interest in this area from partners and funders, and for good reason. Our legal team is deep into enforcement of the Mobile Home Park Act in the Front Range and beyond, is engaged every day in enforcing Medicaid members’ entitlement to expanded, more flexible services for children, and is taking steps to identify potential due process violations now that continuous coverage requirements have been lifted.  
  • A commitment to ensuring access to our many federal and state programs and to reducing the administrative burdens – confusing paperwork, lack of information, psychological stress – that make that access so hard. We’ve worked with communities left out by the digital divide and have strengthened small businesses in building up neighborhoods from within with the help of ARPA funds.  
  • In partnership with the University of Washington, we issued the Self Sufficiency Standard report, which provides a county- and household-specific view of what it takes to make ends meet in Colorado. Our team has been busy presenting this core research report all over the state, where it informs discussions about everything from wages to housing costs. 
  • We have seen incredible growth in CCLP’s community of supporters and advocates, with the largest event attendance numbers in our organization’s history. 

There’s much more to celebrate from the past eight months, but I’m most excited about where we are headed next. It’s been an honor to serve CCLP as the interim executive director. It’s a great privilege to be able to continue to be part of this organization as we – all together now! – work to elevate the voice, the rights and the priorities of those experiencing poverty across our state. 

Recent articles

CCLP’s 2024 legislative wrap-up, part 2

CCLP's 2024 legislative wrap-up focused on expanding access to justice, removing administrative burden, supporting progressive tax and wage policies, preserving affordable communities, and reducing health care costs. Part 2/2.

CCLP’s 2024 legislative wrap-up, part 1

CCLP's 2024 legislative wrap-up focused on expanding access to justice, removing administrative burden, supporting progressive tax and wage policies, preserving affordable communities, and reducing health care costs.

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.

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.