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Do Buffer Zones Survive After McCullen?

July 18, 2014


In a unanimous opinion in McCullen v. Coakley the Supreme Court held that a Massachusetts statute making it a crime to stand on a public road or sidewalk within 35 feet of an abortion clinic violates the First Amendment.

Massachusetts adopted this statute because protesters routinely violated a previous statute. Petitioners were “sidewalk counselors” who claimed the buffer zones prevented them from having personal interactions with those entering the clinics which they viewed as essential to their “sidewalk counseling.”

The State and Local Legal Center’s (SLLC) amicus brief, which NLC joined, points out that cities frequently use buffer zones in numerous contexts. For example, prior to McCullen, lower courts upheld buffer zones to prevent congestion at special events and places that regularly draw crowds and near funerals to protect vulnerable mourners.

McCullen begs an obvious question: will any buffer zone statutes and ordinances survive constitutional scrutiny now?

While only time will tell how lower courts will interpret McCullen, the opinion provides a detailed analysis lower courts are likely to apply to future buffer zone cases.

Almost all buffer zones are created in response to a specific problem (circus buffer zones: think animal rights protesters). This may not mean that lower courts will consider such buffer zones content-based. In McCullen, the Court concluded that Massachusetts’ buffer-zone law was content-neutral despite the fact that Massachusetts regulated speech only outside abortion clinics and not outside every building that might host an event that could attract protesters. The Massachusetts legislature identified a problem only at abortion clinics and reasonably decided to regulate speech only at abortion clinics.

Massachusetts lost in McCullen because the Court concluded its buffer zone law wasn’t “narrowly tailored to serve a significant government interest.” Lower courts are likely to look at all of the reasons the Court relied on when determining if a buffer zone in another context is constitutional.

First, McCullen wasn’t a protester, she was a “sidewalk counselor” who could only work effectively if she could have close, personal conversations with women. More traditional protesters wielding signs and megaphones may not have as persuasive of an argument that they need to get really close to their audience.

Second, the Chief Justice recommended that Massachusetts try to solve its public safety problems at abortion clinics by harassment and obstruction statutes and ordinances which are more targeted than buffer zones. A related reason the Court thought the buffer zones were overkill was that only one clinic in the state had problems on Saturday mornings only. So, when evaluating whether a buffer zone is narrowly tailored a lower court is likely going to look at whether effective options not so burdensome to free speech were available.

Finally, the Court didn’t buy Massachusetts’ argument that it tried other laws already on the book to solve the problems caused by protesters at abortion clinics but they did not work. Massachusetts could not cite to a single prosecution in 17 years and their last injunction dated to the 1990s. In short, cities that adopted buffer zone laws because “everything else failed” are going to have to prove it.

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About the author: Lisa Soronen is the Executive Director of the State and Local Legal Center and a regular contributor to CitiesSpeak.

Birth Control Mandate Case Also a Land Use Case?

July 17, 2014


As usual, on the last day of the Supreme Court’s term it released its opinion in the biggest case of the term: Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. The Court held 5-4 that the Affordable Care Act’s birth control mandate violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), as applied to closely held corporations.

Though not obvious, this case may have a significant impact on land use regulation. For this reason, the State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) filed an amicus brief, which Justice Ginsburg quoted in her dissenting opinion.

RFRA provides that the federal government “shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion.” The Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) bars state and local governments from enforcing land use regulations that substantially burden “the religious exercise of a person.”

So, FRFA and RLUIPA are related statutes. But FRFA only applies to the federal government, and RLUIPA only applies in the land use and institutionalized persons’ context. Both apply to “persons.”

If for-profit corporations are “persons” under RFRA they are also likely “persons” under RLUIPA. As Justice Ginsburg points out in her opinion quoting the SLLC’s amicus brief, this will have negative consequences for state and local government: “[I]t is passing strange to attribute to RLUIPA any purpose to cover entities other than ‘religious assembl[ies] or institution[s].’ That law applies to land-use regulation. To permit commercial enterprises to challenge zoning and other land-use regulations under RLUIPA would ‘dramatically expand the statute’s reach’ and deeply intrude on local prerogatives, contrary to Congress’ intent. Brief for National League of Cities et al. as Amici Curiae 26.”

The SLLC’s amicus brief focused exclusively on how “person” should be defined in RLUIPA. It discussed at the practical difficulties that will arise for state and local governments if corporations are “persons” under RLUIPA. “Interpreting RLUIPA to protect for-profit, secular corporations would dramatically expand the statute’s reach. For-profit corporations could avail themselves of RLUIPA’s broad definition of religious exercise to characterize secular commercial activity as religious in nature. They would have an incentive to do so to gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace. The likely result would be a dramatic increase in the number of for-profit corporations claiming to engage in ‘religious exercise,’ with a concomitant increased burden on local governments administering land use regulations.”

The National League of Cities, the National Association of Counties, the International City/County Management Association, the United States Conference of Mayors, and the International Municipal Lawyers Association signed onto the SLLC’s brief.

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About the author: Lisa Soronen is the Executive Director of the State and Local Legal Center and a regular contributor to CitiesSpeak.

What the End of the “Get Tough on Crime” Era Means for Cities

July 14, 2014

This is the fourth post in NLC’s 90th Anniversary series.


The “get tough on crime” movement, emerging in the late 1960s and early 1970s led to enormous increases in drug arrests, longer prison sentences with mandatory minimums, more punitive juvenile justice sentencing and greater incarceration of juveniles, low-income individuals and people of color.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), about 6.98 million people were under some form of adult correctional supervision in the U.S. at yearend, 2011.  This is the equivalent of about 1 in 34 adults – or about 2.9 percent of the adult population – in prison or jail, or on probation or parole.

By the end of 2012, there were around 1.35 million people incarcerated in state prisons, 217,800 in federal prisons and 744,500 in local jails. From 1998 to 2009, the state cost of mass incarceration of criminals increased from $12 billion to $52 billion per year.

Today, there is movement to reform the criminal justice system and reverse the trend of mass incarceration of nonviolent and drug related offenders.  Federal, state and local leaders are looking for innovative ways to reduce the costs of criminal justice and corrections by keeping low-risk, nonviolent, drug involved offenders out of prison or jail, while still holding them accountable and ensuring the safety of our communities.

The Administration, Congress and many states are enacting new policies to slow the growth of prison populations and even downsizing corrections systems to save hundreds of millions of dollars.

Impact of Reform on Cities

As federal and state sentencing reforms begin to take shape, cities and towns will most likely see a considerable rise in the number of former nonviolent criminals returning back home.

According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy over 9 million ex-offenders cycle through local jails and nearly 700,000 ex-offenders are released from state and federal prisons every year back into their local communities.  This number is expected to go up dramatically as sentencing reform takes place. Without sufficient federal and state support for local programs aimed at transitioning ex-offenders back into the community, cities may see a rise in crime levels which will lead to an increase in recidivism rates.

The BJS estimated two-thirds (68 percent) of the 405,000 prisoners released in 30 states in 2005 were arrested for a new crime within three years of release from prison, and three-quarters (77 percent) were arrested within five years.  More than a third (37 percent) of prisoners who were arrested within five years of release were arrested within the first six months after release, with more than half (57 percent) arrested by the end of the first year.

Support to Prevent Recidivism

While experts agree that sentencing reform is needed for nonviolent, drug related and juvenile delinquent crimes, there is also a need to increase the level of funding and support for programs to prevent recidivism.

The Second Chance Act (SCA), signed into law on April 9, 2008, was designed to improve outcomes for people returning to communities after incarceration. The legislation authorizes federal grants to local governments and nonprofit organizations to provide support and services to reduce recidivism.

In accordance with the SCA, in 2013, the Department of Justice awarded $62 million in competitive and supplemental grants to 112 state, tribal and local governments and non-profit organizations to reduce recidivism, provide reentry services, conduct research and evaluate the impact of reentry programs.

Grant programs authorized by SCA could get additional funding to support local government efforts to reduce recidivism, but only if the federal government does not divert the money saved from reducing prison populations to deficit reduction or other efforts.

Role of Local Elected Officials

There are a number of barriers that prevent young nonviolent ex-offenders from becoming productive members in their communities, including drug and alcohol addiction, mental illness, unemployment and homelessness. Once in the criminal justice system, many of these young people will have criminal records that will last for decades, if not the rest of their lives.

When they are released from prison, many of them have difficulty finding a job and a place to live, and most return to a life of crime because of the lack of opportunities.  Thus, the cycle of recidivism continues, creating challenges and missed opportunities not only for themselves and their families but for the cities in which the live.

Mayors and council members across the country are looking at ways to support local programs that help ex-offenders re-enter into society.  One of the key challenges is to create an equitable and sustainable system that will provide opportunities for nonviolent ex-offenders to find jobs and affordable housing.  More than 60 cities and 12 states across the country have instituted policies that would ban the box on employment applications asking individuals about their conviction history.

Municipal officials play a vital role in reintegrating ex-offenders back in society.  They manage key functions of local government that are essential to breaking the cycle of recidivism, including law enforcement, jails, health and human services, housing authorities, workforce development boards, after school programs, and community development programs.  They also play a vital role in bringing together key stakeholders, community leaders, and faith-based organizations that provide many of the social services that are needed by ex-offenders.

The Urban Institute put together the Elected Official’s Toolkit for Reentry (2011) to help local elected officials develop successful reentry programs for ex-offenders.  In addition, The Annie E. Casey Foundation, U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Labor published the Council of State Governments White Paper titled the Integrated Reentry and Employment Strategies: Reducing Recidivism and Promoting Job Readiness.

Need for Federal Action

There is movement in Congress to pass legislation that will allow a pathway to sealing criminal records of adult nonviolent ex-offenders and sealing and expunging juvenile records to make it easier for ex-offenders to apply for employment.  Citing the need to embrace bipartisan solutions that lessen the taxpayers’ burden and increase public safety, U.S. Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Rand Paul (R-KY) introduced S. 2567, The REDEEM Act (Record Expungement Designed to Enhance Employment).

Additional policy changes are being considered by federal, state and local leaders that would lift the ban on certain benefits for low level drug offenders who may need medical and substance abuse treatments and examine policies that may prevent these ex-offenders from finding affordable housing.

On January 2011, Attorney General Eric Holder also convened the Federal Interagency Reentry Council  with the purpose of removing federal barriers to successful reentry, so that ex-offenders who have served their time and paid their debts are able to compete for a job, attain stable housing, support their families, and contribute to their communities.

NLC continues to work closely with other local and state government organizations to support federal policies such as the Second Chance Act to help municipalities develop successful and sustainable programs aimed at reducing recidivism and reintegrating ex-offenders back into the community.

Yucel-OrsAbout the Author: Yucel (u-jel) Ors is NLC’s Program Director of Public Safety and Crime Prevention. Through Federal Advocacy, he lobbies on behalf of cities around crime prevention, corrections, substance abuse, municipal fire policy, juvenile justice, disaster preparedness and relief, homeland security, domestic terrorism, court systems and gun control.  Follow Yucel on Twitter at @nlcpscp.

How Cities Can Reduce the Number of Uninsured Children

July 14, 2014

Summer Meals Kids

After working with 12 cities for the last six months as they developed outreach and enrollment campaigns to increase enrollment in Medicaid and CHIP, we are excited to announce that we have selected 8 cities to continue on to the third and final implementation phase of our Cities Expanding Health Access for Children and Families initiative.

With support from the Atlantic Philanthropies, NLC will award each city up to $260,000 as well as provide technical assistance over the next 18 months as they implement outreach and enrollment campaigns developed during the six-month planning phase of this initiative.

While each community is unique, each is dealing with a common challenge: children and families who are eligible for, but not enrolled in, Medicaid and CHIP. Recognizing the important role that city leaders have and the valuable steps they can take to increase enrollment in these programs, selected cities have crafted comprehensive campaigns involving key city leaders in partnerships with community organizations, schools and health care providers.

The campaigns aim to reach populations that have been the most difficult to enroll and increase their enrollment in and utilization of Medicaid and CHIP. With all of the attention from the Affordable Care Act on marketplace enrollment and deadlines, it is important to remember that there is no deadline for enrollment in Medicaid and CHIP; enrollment is available 365 days a year!

As city teams that were part of the planning phase assessed the barriers in their communities for families to access the health coverage they need and deserve, they learned that with greater knowledge about community needs and the existing gaps in service, they can custom design outreach and enrollment campaigns that have a significant impact on increasing health care access for children and families in their communities.

Dallas, Texas: Healthy Children in a Healthy Environment

Coordinated by the city’s Housing and Community Services Department, Dallas’ campaign focuses on training staff to become enrollment assistors and coordinating and consolidating existing enrollment efforts in order to increase effectiveness.

Garden City, Michigan: Healthy Kids-Healthy Families

The city’s Community Resource Department will coordinate the Healthy Kids-Healthy Families campaign to increase awareness and understanding of Healthy Michigan – the state’s Medicaid and CHIP program – and to provide assistance with enrollment, utilization, and re-enrollment.  The department will become the entity for enrollment and re-enrollment assistance in the community. City staff and community partners will provide increased enrollment assistance throughout the community and will utilize a social medial campaign and trusted community members to spread their message about the importance of coverage.

Hattiesburg, Mississippi: E3: Educate, Enroll, Empower Health Initiative

Implemented through the mayor’s office who will work in partnership with community partners and agencies to help promote a healthy lifestyle, the E3 (Educate, Enroll, Empower) Health Initiative focuses on three main strategies to reduce the number of uninsured families and to increase retention rates. Plans include: educating families about opportunities for obtaining and retaining coverage; enrolling and recertifying families and children into Medicaid or CHIP; and empowering families to re-enroll on their own.

Jacksonville, Florida: Cover Jacksonville

The city’s first ever mayor-appointed Health Commissioner working in partnership with the Jacksonville Children’s Commission and community partners will lead the Cover Jacksonville campaign. The campaign will focus on: building the community’s capacity by providing training and increasing enrollment assistance; raising awareness about public insurance options and promoting a culture of health; establishing a single point of access for enrollment information and assistance; and identifying and assisting uninsured children through a partnership with Duval County Public Schools.

New Bedford, Massachusetts: Health Access Kids New Bedford

The New Bedford Health Department will lead the Health Access Kids New Bedford campaign in partnership with New Bedford Public Schools (NBPS) and community partners. In addition to reducing the number of eligible but unenrolled children and families, the campaign aims to establish a sustained culture of health quality, literacy, and advocacy in the city. Identifying as the target population NBPS students and their families with low levels of health literacy, the campaign will implement an outreach and marketing campaign to build awareness, and utilizes Community Health Workers to provide individual enrollment assistors and serve as Health Access Specialist navigators.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: Healthy Together

The Healthy Together enrollment campaign complements Mayor Peduto’s Live Well Pittsburgh initiative which aims to achieve 100% coverage for Pittsburgh’s youth. The campaign will utilize three main strategies: embedding enrollment efforts into the core strategy of the Mayor’s administration; implementing outreach strategies led by the Mayor’s office and in partnership with community organizations; and establishing a referral system between schools and enrollment assistance agencies. Recognizing the role of mayors and city leaders in spreading the message of coverage and health access, Healthy Together incorporates a clear role for city leaders and trusted community members in the planned outreach and enrollment events.

Providence, Rhode Island: Healthy Providence

Having identified the existing barriers to enrollment for their city’s residents, the Healthy Providence campaign – led by the mayor’s Healthy Communities Office – focuses on new outreach strategies to reach their eligible but unenrolled population, with plans to serve as an enrollment facilitator for those identified. The campaign strategies include: institutionalizing health coverage assessment and enrollment with school-based outreach; partnering with youth-based organizations to create peer-led outreach efforts; fortifying effective community-based outreach and enrollment efforts with trusted community members and organizations; and improving the enrollment infrastructure through statewide policy initiative support.

Savannah, Georgia: The Mayor’s Campaign for Healthy Children and Families

Emanating from the mayor’s office and including partnerships with Step Up Savannah, the city’s poverty reduction initiative, and other community partners, The Mayor’s Campaign for Healthy Children and Families seeks to increase enrollment in Georgia’s public health insurance programs – Right from the Start Medicaid (RSM) or PeachCare for Kids (PCK) – by enhancing and expanding enrollment assistance services and outreach activities. The plan includes utilizing the city’s 3-1-1 system as a central clearinghouse to link individuals with enrollment assistance, undertaking a broad social media marketing campaign to increase awareness of enrollment and renewals, and also a focus on policy advocacy and systems change.

We’re excited to share a sample of what the cities have in store, and we’ll be sharing more from each city in the coming days and weeks. We hope you’ll follow our progress as we move forward in this implementation phase and find strategies and ideas that you can mirror in your own cities!

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About the Author: Dawn Schluckebier is an Associate for Family Economic Success in NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education, and Families.

What Makes a City Business Friendly?

July 11, 2014

This is a guest blog post by Jon Lieber, Chief Economist at Thumbtack


Every year local lawmakers are flooded with studies purporting to tell them what makes their city a good (or in some cases, bad) place for business. The same city can receive a high grade in one report and a low grade in another – this year San Jose ranked 1st in one ranking of “Best US Cities for Small Business” and 121st in another ranking of “Best Cities to Start a Business.” It can be difficult to keep all the different rankings straight.

Thumbtack has developed an annual survey in partnership with the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation that differs in one fundamental way from these other lists – this survey asks small business owners directly what they think makes for a friendly business environment. By asking the owner-operators of these businesses about their perceptions of the local business climate, we learn from them what works and what doesn’t work about their governments.

This year nearly 13,000 small business owners participated in our survey – these are largely service professionals such as photographers, personal trainers, and house cleaners who use Thumbtack to find new business. The surveyed group largely reflects the geographic spread and demographic diversity of business owners nationwide, and from their responses we graded 82 cities and nearly every state along 11 metrics of the area’s friendliness towards small business.

For the third year in a row, we found that service professionals valued three things above all others in their local government: a licensing system that is simple and makes compliance easy; a tax system that has clear rules and is easy to understand; and training and networking programs that help service professionals get their businesses up and running, comply with the local rules, and meet other professionals in their industries.

Licensing and regulation

About half of the service professionals in the sample reported that they were required to be licensed by at least one level of government. Of this group, 62 percent said they faced licensing requirements from more than one level of government, while a full 25 percent said they were licensed by all four levels of government we asked about – city, county, state, and federal.

Although professional licensure requirements tended to reduce friendliness scores overall for those who faced them, the comments included with survey responses revealed that licensed professionals were of two minds – one group tended to say the government should back out of their business altogether, while the other group wanted to see an increase in enforcement to prevent unlicensed professionals from undercutting them on price. In general, service professionals did not express a desire for an unregulated marketplace, but wanted regulations that were easy to comply with and did not consume time they could be spending on a job. One pro said that the two days he wasted pulling permits for installing a hot water heater was two days he could’ve been working and earning a living for his family.

Taxes and Training

The effects of licensure requirements were so strong that they were actually twice as important as the friendliness of the tax code in determining perceptions of overall friendliness. When it came to taxes, tax rates were not a major complaint of our respondents – 2/3rds of all professionals say they pay their “fair share of taxes.” Instead what mattered more was the ease of understanding and ease of complying with local tax laws. Professionals who felt they understood their taxes were more likely to say a city was friendly towards them.

Finally, the largest factor under a local government’s control that affected overall friendliness scores was the availability of training and networking programs to help professionals succeed. 57 percent of survey respondents said they had never before run their own business – these professionals wanted to focus on serving their customers, and said they appreciated help from local community organizations in understanding and following the rules of the road for businesses. Professionals who said they knew of training and networking programs offered by the government ranked their governments 10 percent higher than those who didn’t.

The Kauffman Foundation’s Index of Entrepreneurial Activity shows that entrepreneurship can be a safe harbor for cities during difficult economic periods – as individuals lose their jobs during economic downturns, entrepreneurship tends to rise as they turn towards self-employment to keep their skills up or help pay the bills, and it declines again as the labor market recovers. This suggests that cities that create the right environment for entrepreneurs will be better positioned to weather challenging economic periods. Listening directly to entrepreneurs as the Thumbtack survey does can help cities understand which policies are making them small business friendly and which are keeping small business at bay.

Headquartered in San Francisco, Thumbtack is a consumer service that helps millions of people accomplish the personal projects that are central to their lives. Thumbtack introduces customers to experienced professionals who are available, interested and qualified to meet their specific needs. Whether looking for a painter for their home, a math tutor for their child, or a DJ for their wedding, Thumbtack provides anyone in the U.S. with an easy and dependable way to get started, compare options, and hire with confidence.

NLC’s Big Ideas for Small Business report provides helpful strategies for how cities can create a more business friendly environment. 

Lieber headshotAbout the Author: Jon Lieber is chief economist for Thumbtack, where he studies trends in the labor market, entrepreneurship, and the small business economy. He has previously acted as an economic policy advisor for the United States government, serving in the U.S. House of Representatives, the United States Senate, and the President’s National Economic Council at the White House.

How to Boost Your City’s Visibility

July 7, 2014


“Technology doesn’t have to be expensive.” That’s what the sales people tell us. These words trigger the warning bell in our heads. But sometimes it turns out to be true, as the city leaders in Lewiston, Maine (pop. 36,600) discovered in their partnership with NLC Corporate Partner CGI Communications.

Prominent on the city’s website is a new video tour that highlights the community generally and offers a specialized focus on arts and entertainment, economic development, community organizations and quality of life. The high resolution streaming video costs the city nothing. CGI Communications builds the entire package and secures sponsorships from area businesses.

I have never been to Lewiston, but now, thanks to the video, I know lots about the community and am looking for an excuse to host an event there. The historic buildings in the downtown are enough to draw my interest and the Lewiston Art Walk is an added bonus. Likewise, the access to the natural world – hiking trails, river kayaking and a wildlife preserve – complement the built environment.

While we all might be drawn to a place because of its natural beauty, its architecture, its amusements and amenities, most of us still have to earn a living. The Lewiston videos offer information on the economic strengths as well as the artistic and recreational opportunities. The economy is diversified across health care, manufacturing, financial services and telecommunications industries. The local fiber optic network serves both businesses and residents and the riverfront development projects represent significant commercial investments.

Video on a city website is not new. But smaller cities like Lewiston tend to spend their local resources on direct service delivery. A web portal, while essential in the present era, is often a no frills site. Lewiston, through its public private partnership with CGI has shown that the city can have the frills and still spend community dollars on key local services.

Brooks, J.A. 2010About the Author: James Brooks is NLC’s Director for City Solutions. He specializes in local practice areas related to housing, neighborhoods, infrastructure, and community development and engagement.  Follow Jim on Twitter @JamesABrooks.

Cities Expanding Health Access for Children and Families Initiative: Lessons from the Planning Phase

July 3, 2014


After a very short six months, we have come to the conclusion of the Cities Expanding Health Access for Children and Families (CEHACF) project’s planning phase. On May 30, 2014, NLC received business plans from all 12 cities for outreach campaigns to enroll children and families in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

Business plans are currently under review and NLC will select approximately six cities to receive implementation grants in July 2014. These grants will support cities with up to $260,000 each and ongoing technical assistance over 18 months during the initiative’s final phase to implement outreach campaigns.

Medicaid and CHIP are the nation’s two most important public health insurance programs for families, and are available year-round. Unlike purchasing private insurance through the Marketplace, there is no open enrollment period for Medicaid or CHIP which will allow eligible families to enroll at any time.

Mayors and local elected officials have a vested interest in connecting children and families to Medicaid and CHIP, providing a powerful role for cities to play in making that connection. NLC has learned some important lessons through the CEHACF planning phase which are outlined below to help interested city leaders with campaign planning.

  1. City Leaders and Stakeholders are Motivated by Better Health Outcomes for Kids
    During the planning phase, we anonymously surveyed initiative participants consisting of local elected officials, senior city staff members, school administrators, representatives from hospitals and clinics, and other community partners to understand what motivated them to become involved in health benefit outreach. The number one response from 29 out of 33 respondents was to help create better health outcomes for kids. The number two response from only two respondents was to reduce city costs related to uninsured populations. The cynic in me found this discovery very surprising, since I thought the primary motivating factor would be financially-rooted, but it turns out community leaders just want kids to have a healthy start in life! With this information, we hope city leaders can better develop messaging strategies to enlist and motivate community partners to engage in health benefit outreach.
  1. Assess the Market
    In the private sector, the saying goes, “know your customer.” Similarly, to effectively reach families and connect them to Medicaid and CHIP, local leaders need to understand their target audience(s). As part of the planning phase, initiative participants were encouraged to conduct market analyses through community surveys, focus groups, and interviews to learn about the specific needs, attitudes, and preferences of target populations. Through this exercise, initiative participants not only gained an awareness of community outreach needs, but also an understanding of existing services and how to fill service gaps. With greater knowledge about community needs, cities can custom design outreach strategies tailored for their communities, which will hopefully lead to more effective outreach and enrollment strategies.
  1. Sustain Outreach and Enrollment Initiatives by Incorporating them into Existing Systems
    At the planning phase cross-site meeting in March, one participant shared that unless new outreach and enrollment initiatives can be sustained over time, they should not even be initiated. This statement really struck me, as it did—I think, for many other meeting participants. The statement led us into a discussion about how to sustain outreach and enrollment efforts, and through this dialogue, we concluded that efforts can be more readily sustained if they are incorporated into existing community programs and systems. This might be done through 2-1-1 information and referral systems, parks and recreation departments, libraries, school districts, or Head Start offices.  There are many other ways to incorporate outreach and enrollment efforts into existing city programs and systems and city leaders can be creative in considering existing community structures that can help sustain efforts.

As we move into the implementation phase of the CEHACF initiative, we will continue to share our lessons with the hope that more cities will be motivated to develop outreach and enrollment campaigns. After all, children and families in communities all over the U.S. are currently eligible for Medicaid and CHIP, but may not know it. All it might take is for a city leader to help make a connection!

For more information about the CEHACF initiative, contact Chuan Teng at to find out which cities will move into the implementation phase, please visit the Institute for Youth, Education and Families website on July 14!


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