Starting Jan. 1, the minimum wage in unincorporated Boulder County is $15.69/hour.

A partir del 1 de enero, el salario mínimo local en la zona no incorporada del condado de Boulder será de $15.69/hora.

News Archive
ATTENTION: This news article is more than 1 year old and information may be outdated.

February 14, 2023

Boulder County ARPA News, February2022

Banner for ARPA Newsletter

ARPA Newsletter 004 | February 2023 | Boco.org/ARPA

IN THIS ISSUE

Did You Know?Transforming the Future of Children in Boulder County

Housing AffordabilityCasa de la Esperanza: A House of Opportunities, Courage, and Hope (Part I)

Mental Health and Social ResilienceARPA Funds to Expand Mental Health and Social Resilience Programs in Boulder County

Sister Carmen Community Center Work Lifts Communities in Need

Boulder County ARPA Job Opportunities

Ver Contentido en Español

For previously published newsletters, go to boco.org/ARPA and click on the Newsroom tab.

American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) investments are making an impact in our Boulder County communities by providing resources to people who were hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In this newsletter, we will share examples of the ARPA-supported work that is underway. We invite you to visit https://www.boco.org/ARPA for additional information.

DID YOU KNOW?

Transforming the Future of Children in Boulder County

Parents with children

Have you heard the phrase, "It takes a village to raise a child?" This African proverb couldn’t be more relevant today, as it emphasizes the importance of families and communities in creating a safe and thriving environment for children.

Parents Involved in Education (PIE) is a program that captures the need for collaboration to provide Latino parents with the tools to support their kids' learning journeys and to increase parent involvement in the St. Vrain Valley School District. But it didn’t start that way: "15 years ago, lots of agencies were offering parenting support with different classes and different sessions, and parents couldn’t attend all of them, so we collectively developed a yearlong calendar of learning sessions," explains Meca Delgado, Special Projects Coordinator and Program Manager CSD and PIE Co-Chair.

List of PIE collaborating partners

The program offers learning opportunities in Spanish with English translation. PIE is designed to achieve success in children’s development by centering the meetings on social and educational issues relevant to families in Boulder County. PIE learns from focus groups with parents and insights from the school district. "We pay attention to what's going on," added Delgado. "We have data sets such as the Healthy Colorado Kids Survey, and we listen to our community to see what's going on in our community; we're connected to what's going on around us." 

Each collaborating partner brings their expertise or their connections to experts on specific topics to the PIE calendar. "We're bringing all these professionals in the community together to talk about what's happening today. Several sessions are educational, but a lot are about establishing communication with the community about relevant issues, emergency situations, etc.," said Martin Martinez, PIE Co-Chair.

The topics consist of school safety, inclusive education, how to access higher education, bullying, mental health, and more.

The meetings had successful attendance in person, and when the COVID-19 pandemic occurred, tools like the online chat application WhatsApp gave PIE the opportunity to engage other participants virtually.

"We have over 100 families on a WhatsApp channel we created when the pandemic happened," added Martinez. "I get a lot of calls from Fort Lupton families who want to join us; they're right on our county's border, and because we're inclusive, we'll never turn anyone away, even if they're from another city."

PIE is a truly collaborative effort that no one agency owns, and each partner contributes time, money, and resources to ensure its success. PIE is one program supported by the Healthy Youth Alliance (HYA). HYA supports the program administratively and with funding. HYA’s mission is to assure that all youth, parents, and community members have the knowledge and skills to support kids and youth in making healthy, positive choices and behaviors. For more information about Parents Involved in Education, visit https://boco.org/PIE

Casa de la Esperanza: A House of Opportunities, Courage, and Hope (Part I)

Latino family smiling

When Casa de la Esperanza was founded as a housing solution in the early 1990s, migrant families, primarily from Mexico and other Latin American countries, arrived to play a critical role in the agricultural industry in Boulder County. Farm laborers filled the jobs needed to boost the food economy and supply the high demand for agricultural operations in our communities.

The lack of acceptable, affordable housing for agricultural worker families in Boulder County was a problem that the Boulder County Housing Authority (BCHA) addressed in partnership with Community Action Programs and other local authorities. That’s how Casa de la Esperanza (House of Hope) was built.

Casa de la Esperanza is a 32-unit housing complex for low-income families and a learning center providing educational services for their children. Although the property is a place that many have called home, today faces multiple challenges: "We are working on the refinancing of its current loans on the property because this is not allowing us to keep the property fully leased and provide critical housing to families in need," said Norrie Boyd, Director of the Boulder County Housing Authority.

The loan from the USDA Rural Development Loan Program is tied to the structure and income of families living in Casa de la Esperanza. The head of the household must work in the agricultural sector with an annual income of less than $62,700 and an average family size of 4 individuals. However, the agricultural workforce has changed, making it more difficult to fully occupy the property. "When we first built Casa, the community was very different. We saw a lot of farmworkers in this area, and they had larger families, so they would be able to qualify. Today's needs are different," explained Tanya Jimenez, Housing Developer at BCHA, "We're not seeing large families in the farmworker household, and relatives don’t come with agricultural workers anymore; we see more single individuals."

Worker working on a crop

Other properties owned by BCHA that serve communities in need also have rural development loans but are more flexible, making it easier to provide affordable housing options. According to Boyd "farm workers earn more in Boulder County than they used to, but we can't adjust the income qualifications for that growth, and that has become a challenge for Casa de la Esperanza." The shift in the composition of Boulder County is another reason why the property has suffered major vacancies since 2017. Boyd noted, "The housing prices for rentals and for-sale homes in Boulder County continue to increase. Many families are making the hard choice of whether they can continue to live and work in Boulder County, and US Census data indicate that the county is losing family households."

For Hispanic families, the rising cost of living has a special impact. According to the 2020–2024 Consolidated Plan for Boulder–Broomfield Counties Market Survey, Hispanic households and households with disabilities are the most likely to face housing challenges.

"BCHA knows that it will be important to preserve and enhance our affordable properties, and that includes refinancing the properties so that we can meet the increasing demand in the market for farmworkers and all low- and moderate-income households," added Jimenez.

As with every aging property, Casa de La Esperanza also needs improvements, but before addressing the upgrades, working with the lender is a priority. The funds of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) will be fundamental to achieving these goals.

Casa de la Esperanza is also a center for new horizons. Casa de la Esperanza Learning Center offers after-school and summer programs, academic support services, enrichment opportunities, and access to essential resources.

Don’t miss Part II of Casa de la Esperanza: A House of Opportunities, Courage, and Hope in our March edition to learn about the success stories of this community.

ARPA Funds to Expand Mental Health and Social Resilience Programs in Boulder County

The Boulder County Board of Commissioners allocated funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to expand existing services for Mental Health and Social Resilience programs from the Phase 2 Pandemic Recovery and Relief Projects. Seven local community nonprofit agencies and two county school districts were awarded ARPA grants to expand and/or create new services to support the equitable access program for mental health and behavioral health support in the Boulder County community.

"We are excited to let the people of Boulder County know that these ARPA funds will go toward programs and services that strengthen system transformation for communities most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic by ensuring that any door is the right door to get mental health support with the Equitable Access Front Door concept," said Marnie Huffman-Green, manager of the ARPA Mental Health and Social Resilience Project.

The equitable access and school-based funding grantees are El Centro AMISTAD, Boulder Valley School District, Emergency Family Assistance Association (EFAA), OUR Center, OUT Boulder County, Rise Against Suicide, St. Vrain Valley Schools, Sister Carmen Community Center, and TGTHR.

Family members hugging each other.

The two school districts receiving ARPA funds will expand instructional support and provide continuity of services for youth mental health.

"These grants will increase services for organizations directly helping pandemic-impacted populations with a focus on racial equity," noted Huffman-Green. "With these community-based grants, our Boulder County residents will be able to get care in a variety of settings and ways thanks to the Equitable Access Front Door concept.

Community members will have more ways to receive the holistic support at the not-for-profit agency where they feel most comfortable, and the goal of these grants is to lessen stigma associated with seeking mental health support."

Mental Health and Social Resilience is one of the strategic priority areas identified as being among the most concerning topics for residents of Boulder County during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2022, Boulder County received recommendations from the ARPA Working Groups based on a community engagement process where the responses of a county-wide survey revealed that Economic challenges, Housing Affordability, and Mental Health and Social Resilience were the most challenging areas for Boulder County residents.

Sister Carmen Community Center Work Lifts Communities in Need

Sister Carmen community members gathered.

Sister Carmen Community Center (SCCC) is a Family Resource Center and an example of how action can impact whole communities. This nonprofit organization was started by a Catholic nun and a group of volunteers who gathered donations in a garage. Suzanne Crawford, CEO of the Sister Carmen Community Center in Lafayette, said, "Sister Carmen had been distributing food to migrant workers and others in need in Lafayette and the eastern Boulder County area, at the request of the Denver archdiocese. One of the volunteers got a grant from IBM to lease some space, and in 1978, they filed the paperwork to become an official nonprofit organization.”

Today, Sister Carmen has no religious affiliation but continues with the mission of supporting families that are struggling to cover bills, can’t afford healthy food, or are experiencing other hardships. The organization provides services in Lafayette, Louisville, Superior, and Erie. "In addition to the thrift store, we are able to offer items for free to the community, but it's also a low-cost resource for the public with the idea of reduce, reuse, and recycle," said Katie Warning, Sister Carmen’s Director of Programs.

The center has programs to connect the community by providing a comprehensive approach to building social interactions and support. "With the nutrition and healthy living program, we have a garden on site, so we have fresh produce that goes to the food pantry," added Warning. "There are exercise classes and education programs like our Family Leadership Training Institute, nurturing parenting classes, parent support groups, digital literacy, tech support for the community, and other learning opportunities." 

People in a coffee shop

Sister Carmen community members gathered.

The enthusiasm of the Sister Carmen organization is contagious. Everyday staff and volunteers are part of people's stories with different backgrounds who honor their past and cultivate awareness of everyone’s experiences. On one occasion, the Islamic Center was facing some backlash and racism, so a member of the Muslim community decided to have "Coffee with a Muslim," a social gathering, so people could learn who she was. “We helped her find resources to develop a flyer and share the event. A local coffee shop supported her by giving away drinks for free, and the turnout was amazing!" said Julie Piller, SCCC Community & Family Education Manager. "On another occasion, an artist who didn’t want her indigenous traditions to be lost would go into nature with a group of women and gather natural materials and teach the weaving of beautiful baskets and pieces of artwork."

SCCC prioritizes diversity in all its services. For example, the nonprofit provides bicultural and biliterate facilitators for educational events, and with the help of ARPA funds, community family and education services will be more frequent for Spanish-speaking communities. "We're grateful for the ARPA funding for the Family Leadership Training Institute. Normally, we would have a cohort facilitated in English one year and in Spanish the next, but that is a long time to wait. We're really excited about having simultaneous interpretation because the cohort will be in dual languages," Julie added.

Sister Carmen also has an advocacy program where a team of 10 advocates meet one-on-one with individuals for direct financial assistance, resource referral connections, and ongoing family supportive services. For volunteer opportunities and more information about Sister Carmen resources, go to https://sistercarmen.org/.

Boulder County ARPA Job Opportunities:

Boulder County is hiring for new positions in public service programs funded by ARPA.  Boulder County Public Health is seeking to hire two Family Connects Public Health Nurses. These positions will perform maternal child health nursing functions for the early postpartum dyad under the Family Connects Program at Boulder County Public Health (BCPH). The nurse will conduct home visiting for families who give birth at Boulder Community Health in Boulder, CO, as part of the Family Connects Program. Applications are due on Feb. 20. To learn more about this opportunity, go to Boulder County Careers.