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Groups Harness Big Data to Map Gaps in Human Services Across Colorado

A new tool maps Colorado's food, health care, child care and financial assistance programs by county. (Pixabay)
A new tool maps Colorado's food, health care, child care and financial assistance programs by county. (Pixabay)
August 9, 2016

DENVER - An interactive dashboard released today aggregates data on Colorado's food, health care, child care and financial assistance programs by county.

The state has a mixed track record helping residents that struggle to meet basic needs, with some counties performing better than others. In response, a coalition of nonprofit groups led by the Colorado Center on Law and Policy has launched a new online map that pools data from multiple state and federal agencies.

Michelle Webster, the center's manager of research and policy analysis, said the goal is to provide a clearer picture of where the state is succeeding in human services and where it's not.

"It's really an effort to make this data available, to county-level administrators," she said. "It could be stakeholder groups, it could be policy makers, to really increase transparency and hopefully increase performance,"

Webster noted since most low-income families that meet Medicaid requirements also qualify for SNAP food assistance, the map points to missed opportunities. She said one county that enrolled some 85 percent of people eligible for Medicaid missed signing up more than two-thirds of its eligible residents for SNAP.

Webster said the new Human Services Gap Map offers solutions, such as sharing data among programs to reach more people, and makes it easier to identify which counties are performing well and why. She noted having reliable access to life's basic necessities is especially important for children, and while many Colorado families have bounced back after the Great Recession, child poverty in the state remains high.

"We want to make sure that these programs are reaching the people that really need them," she added. "You know, a temporary boost so that they can get on their feet and have a successful, productive life. That's our hope."

To find out how your county measures up, visit GapMap.org.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO