Jan 20, 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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Ushering in 2022 with Continued Support of Our Collaborative Partners

by | Jan 20, 2022

As the Denver metro region continues to grow in the face of climate change, COVID, and lack of affordability for so many, MHC understands more than ever the importance of bringing together individuals, organizations, philanthropy, and government to achieve community change at levels they cannot achieve alone. As we usher in the new year, we celebrate and continue to support the work of our collaborative partners, all in service of uprooting systemic inequities while responding to the immediate needs of community. This is our work.

MHC and its collaborative partners are working toward a common vision where all people in our region are free and live in equitable, resilient communities. Our Collaborative Work Plan serves as the roadmap for this vision – addressing deeply rooted systemic issues while ensuring community needs are met. It reflects local work of our partners with an understanding that many of the common barriers they experience are connected to systemic causes that target BIPOC and low-income residents, including lack of access to land ownership and other opportunities for wealth-building, as well as a lack of representation at planning and policy decision-making tables.

MHC’s work plan was built by our Coordinated Action Committee, comprised of steering committee members and partners from

  • West Denver Renaissance Collaborative (West Denver)
  • Maiker Housing Partners (Southwest Adams County)
  • Enterprise Community Partners (East Denver/Regional)
  • Montbello Organizing Committee (Far Northeast Denver)
  • Cha Ka M Zee (Community leader/Regional)

Each partner is working locally in our target geographies – West Denver, East Denver, Far NE Denver, and SW Adams County, and elevated specific projects that will move the needle forward on MHC’s three strategies of Unlocking Community Power, Equitable Development, and Equitable Capital. These strategies were supported with a range of resources including capacity building, technical assistance, peer connections, and financial resources (as available).

Thanks to the contributions of the Strong Prosperous & Resilient Communities Challenge (SPARCC), Forth Mobility/Greenlining Institute, and local funders, last year MHC supported all Coordinated Action Committee members, in addition to other local partners doing critical work to advance our strategies, including:

  • East Colfax Community Collective
  • Sun Valley Kitchen
  • Colorado Black Arts Movement
  • 9to5 Colorado
  • United for a New Economy

Anchored in our unlocking community power strategy, MHC:

  • Continued to support the community movement building and organizing capacity of our local partners, resulting in organizational changes that provide formal structures for authentic community engagement and program co-creation.
  • Financially supported partners in SW Adams County to develop a start-up committee to inform a new organizing and training institute to tackle critical issues such as healthy food, language, and vaccine access.
  • Financially supported efforts of our west Denver partners to increase the capacity for organizing across that region.
  • Sponsored Zoom licenses for community organizers and partners, opening access to virtual public meetings and identifying strategies to sustain the work in a post-pandemic world.

As part of our equitable development strategy, we:

  • Financially supported partners in exploring community ownership models to fight displacement, increase local stabilization, and build community resilience.
  • Supported local partners with data and research into community ownership models to inform their path forward.
  • Cohosted community discussion on electric mobility and infrastructure to understand potential hurdles in implementations

To open access to equitable capital, we:

  • Financially supported predevelopment costs associated with community-driven mixed-use projects designed to address lack of housing, missing healthy food systems, and other critical local needs, such as Montbello’s FreshLo project.

Connecting local issues to larger-scale impacts to drive equitable change, we amplified regional and state-level efforts by supporting affordable housing campaigns of our partners to advance safe, healthy housing in COVID recovery, including implementing an extension to the state’s eviction moratorium and two state bills focused on tenant protections.

As the need to implement and operationalize equitable practices grows, MHC’s years of unprecedented experience as a collaborative of community-based organizations and institutional partners, paired with our more recent work through the Strong, Prosperous, and Resilient Community Challenge (SPARCC), positions us to preach what we practice and advocate for continued support of collaborative work and the need for deeper relational partnerships, stronger community networks, sustained access to expertise and technical assistance, and diverse, unrestricted, and patient capital.

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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.