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Human Services Safety Net Initiative (HSSN)
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Human Services Safety Net Initiative (HSSN)

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The Human Services Safety Net: Neighbors Helping Neighbors

Boulder County’s Human Services Safety Net (HSSN) initiative is filling critical gaps in health, housing, and human services supports during times of uncertainty, and has the backing of our community.

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. The HSSN tax increase was scheduled to expire at the end of 2015, and Boulder County Commissioners placed a proposed extension of the HSSN on the November 2014 ballot. Voters approved the extension overwhelmingly (63 to 37 percent), an affirmation of its success that means HSSN funding will continue through the year 2030.

The primary function of the HSSN is to help fill significant gaps left by ongoing inadequate state and federal funding for health care, housing assistance, and other human services supports and programs. Its secondary function is to help attract additional funding from other sources. It has been and continues to be successful at both. Since 2010, the Human Services Safety Net initiative has raised nearly $38 million for these supports in Boulder County. Use of the tax is restricted to programs primarily that provide rental assistance, support for child protection, financial help for early childhood care and education, critical mental health and substance use supports, and sustained access to health and dental care for at-risk families and children. It can’t be used for capital, to build housing, or other purposes. See the ballot language linked at right for full details on what the HSSN must fund.

Please note: this initiative was previously referred to as the Temporary Human Services Safety Net, or TSN. The extension of the mill levy is indicative of the ongoing nature of the work it funds, and is reflected in the updated name, Human Services Safety Net (HSSN).

What’s next following the voter-approved 15-year extension?

As we work to invest HSSN resources effectively, we continue to identify funding priority areas, leverage our existing resources, strengthen the integration of our services, and focus on improving outcomes across the lifespans of the individuals and families we serve. Our recent work within the Generative Framework and the very productive Community of Hope: A Generative Framework for Partnership has strengthened the foundation we have built for this community-wide conversation, and we are already preparing plans for the next steps in this process. This page will be updated as the next phase of work progresses on plans for future HSSN funding.

Why was it adopted?

Boulder County’s caseload for services like food assistance has increased over 113% since 2008 (from 8,900 to 19,000 people). For Medicaid programs, it’s been a 188% increase (16,000 to 46,000 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 $500,000 home in Boulder County, the 0.9 mill levy property tax amounts to about $45 per year.

How is it helping our community?

Since its inception, the HSSN has invested nearly $38 million in human services, housing assistance, and health supports in Boulder County.

Some of the important impacts of the HSSN in Boulder County (2011 – 2017):

The primary function of the HSSN is to help fill significant gaps left by ongoing inadequate state and federal funding for health care, housing assistance, and other human services supports and programs. Its secondary function is to help attract additional funding from other sources. It has been and continues to be successful at both. Since 2010, the Human Services Safety Net initiative has raised nearly $38 million for these supports in Boulder County. Use of the tax is restricted to programs primarily that provide rental assistance, support for child protection, financial help for early childhood care and education, critical mental health and substance use supports, and sustained access to health and dental care for at-risk families and children. It can’t be used for capital, to build housing, or other purposes. See the ballot language at right for full details around what the HSSN must fund.

Since 2011, nearly $5 million in HSSN funding has gone to the Boulder County Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP), a critical support for helping low-income parents and their children get quality child care and early childhood education opportunities. Because of this additional funding, Boulder County has been able to serve nearly twice the number of families and children than federal and state allocations support. With a significant boost from the Human Services Safety Net, CCAP supports both children and parents at the same time, so the community’s return on this “Two-Generation” investment over time is high – research indicates between 7 and 11 dollars for every one dollar spent. Boulder County’s successes in increasing investments in the CCAP program through HSSN have also helped prompt additional financial support for quality child care statewide. Despite the increased support levels in Boulder County, thousands of families are still in need of this assistance, and we continue to work to expand the service through visionary initiatives such as the Human Services Safety Net.

The HSSN has invested nearly $8 million in the county’s Housing Stabilization Program, which (since 2008) has provided rental assistance for over 2,400 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: many of the HSP referrals have come from partner non-profits like OUR Center, Sister Carmen, and EFAA.

The HSSN has also generated the following additional supports for our community:

$2,355,545 for direct mental health and substance use services

Over $20 million to boost access to health care, food assistance, safety services (including child protection), including through several non-profit and governmental community partner organizations, as well as 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 in percent of current child support paid from 2010 to today.

The HSSN also plays an important role in helping ensure the fund balance for Boulder County Housing and Human Services (BCDHHS) remains as healthy as possible. In 2018, HHS is projected to end the year with a $7.8 million fund balance – a 40% reduction from just four years ago. For an organization that serves over 90,000 Boulder County residents each year who are in need of a wide range of help, this fund balance represents just 14% of its annual budget – about two months of savings. In today’s fiscal uncertainty around public supports funding, this is a worrisome number. But this is precisely why BCDHHS has worked hard to bolster its fund balance by leveraging and matching funding from visionary initiatives such as HSSN: to weather uncertainty so that our neighbors in need during times such as these still have supports to stabilize and thrive.

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 [LINK]presentation[/LINK] 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.

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Housing & Human Services

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TTY: 1-800-659-3656
Fax: 303-441-1523
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