Boulder County’s Human Services Safety Net Initiative (HSSN)

HSSN Reports 2014


HSSN Report 2013

In 2014, the Ford Foundation featured Boulder County in a report titled "Gaining Ground: A Guide to Facilitating Technology Innovation in Human Services. This report provides an excellent example of how we are integrating our services in collaboration with our community partners and with a data-driven focus on early intervention and prevention.

The HSSN: What is it?

In November 2010, Boulder County voters approved Ballot Initiative 1A, a temporary 0.9 mill levy increase on property taxes. The purpose of the increase is to help fill a void left by state and federal cuts to funding for housing and human services programs during a time when need has been skyrocketing. Each year through 2015, county commissioners have the option of reducing the tax increase if state funding is partially or fully restored. The HSSN tax increase is scheduled to expire at the end of 2015, and Boulder County Commissioners have placed a proposed 15-year extension of the HSSN on the November 2014 ballot. The Boulder County Ballot Issues web page contains the ballot resolution as well as information about providing feedback to county commissioners on the proposal.

Please note: this initiative was previously referred to as the Temporary Human Services Safety Net, or TSN. While the HSSN extension would still be temporary, this name may better reflect the nature of the work it funds, which is ongoing.

Why was it adopted?

Boulder County’s caseload for services like food assistance has increased over 120% since 2008 (from 8,900 to 20,000 people). For Medicaid programs, it's been a 162% increase (16,000 to 42,000 people). During this same time, federal and state cuts to safety net programs have not been restored, and many cities and counties are falling further and further behind the need in their communities.

Through very targeted investments in successful human services and effective partnerships, the HSSN continues to help alleviate the impacts of these cuts in Boulder County even as need for assistance continues to increase dramatically.

What does it mean for homeowners?

As an example, on a $300,000 home in Boulder County, the 0.9 mill levy property tax increase amounts to $21 per year.

How is it helping our community?

Since its inception, the HSSN has invested about $20 million in the human services safety net in Boulder County.

Some of the important impacts of the HSSN in Boulder County:

  • Nearly $2 million in additional funding has gone to the Boulder County Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP). The waitlist for CCAP, which had been closed due to budget cuts, was re-opened, and income limits for it were raised so more people could qualify; 300 additional children and their families are now receiving subsidized child care as a result; This is a very important support for families trying to stabilize, as it helps parents maintain employment, find work, or get an education
  • Funds invested in the county’s benefits access system helped improve turnaround times on applications for assistance by over 25 percent
  • The HSSN has invested nearly $4 million in the county’s Housing Stabilization Program, which (since 2008) has provided rental assistance for over 1,700 families at risk of homelessness, some of whom were displaced by the September 2013 Boulder County flooding; The funding has also supported our collaboration with many community partners around Boulder County: 777 of the HSP referrals have come from partner non-profits like OUR Center, Sister Carmen, and EFAA
  • $1,347,725 for direct mental health and substance abuse services
  • $3,951,074 to boost access to health care, including in the county’s medical and dental clinics that serve at-risk low-income populations
  • Significant investments were made in the county’s collaborative program for parents who are having trouble making their child support payments; Boulder County was the only one of the “Big 10” Colorado counties to see an increase (1.3 percent) in percent of current child support paid from 2010 to today

What’s next?

Boulder County’s Housing and Human Services Department is responsible for managing the HSSN funds, and continues to work with Boulder County Commissioners, our community partners, and the public to identify needs and priority areas that will strengthen the community’s safety net. In addition to the services funded to date, additional needs for the future include life skills and education support for parents, job training and employment assistance, and a continued focus on early childhood initiatives. The Human Services Safety Net initiative is allowing us to continue to develop a proactive approach to human services. By helping people and families stabilize with food or medical assistance, avoid the loss of housing, or receive job assistance early in the search process, we can help our community members avoid more catastrophic situations down the line. This ultimately saves tax dollars, since more intensive services later are exponentially more expensive.

The Boulder County Commissioners and Boulder County Housing and Human Services held a town hall meeting with community partners on the Human Services Safety Net in June 2014. Among other things, we heard about how the HSSN is proactively addressing community need by investing in front-end prevention and stabilization services. BCDHHS Director Frank Alexander gave a presentation about programs, clients served, budgets, and future plans around the HSSN. We also heard moving testimonials about the HSSN from community partners.

We’re grateful to Boulder County voters for sharing our vision of community-based early intervention and prevention, and our goals of family and individual stabilization and self-sufficiency.


Questions? Please contact Jim Williams at Boulder County Housing and Human Services.


Housing & Human Services

Phone: 303-441-1000
Fax: 303-441-1523
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P.O. Box 471
Boulder, CO 80306


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