Eagle County allocates additional $500,000 for COVID-19 assistance program
More than 3,000 people have applied for help and initial $400,000 has been allocated
EAGLE — In the two weeks since the creation of Eagle County’s COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund, more than 3,000 residents have applied for assistance.
With that many applicants, it’s not surprising that the $400,000 initially allocated for the program is already spent. But in response to the continuing need, on Tuesday the county commissioners allocated an additional $500,000 to assist residents with financial hardships brought on by the global pandemic.
“Just to working through our current load of applications, we need additional funds,” explained Megan Burch, the county’s human services director, during Tuesday morning’s commissioner meeting. “What this funding would do is allow us to continue to work through the applications we have and focus on April payments.”
Burch noted that to date, the program has approved 440 applications. “The biggest need financially, by far, is rent,” she said. Approximately $300,000 of the initial allocation has been earmarked for rent payments. The remainder of the county assistance money has gone to help people pay mortgages, purchase groceries and supplies and make other essential payments.
Help and referral
The county launched its COVID-19 assistance program on March 24 when it allocated $1.15 million to the effort. The commissioners earmarked $250,000 to fund community partners — such as the Salvation Army and the Community Market — to help with their programs. Another $500,000 was earmarked to fund the county’s Emergency Operations Center and its priority projects.
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In its original funding allocation, the commissioners provided $400,000 for economic services to expand and enhance existing assistance programs. Eagle County Human Services was tasked with reviewing applications from residents who have been financially impacted by COVID-19 and are experiencing hardship. As word about the program spread, the county put out a call for staff members to help with application screening. There are now 78 county staff members who have been trained to review applications and conduct application interviews.
Burch noted that in addition to determining if applicants receive county money, the process connects residents with other resources. Many families are directed to apply for the Colorado Works program, which provides both monthly cash assistance for families and one-time lump sum disaster payments.
As they approved the additional money for the COVID-19 relief program, the commissioners noted the current funding is intended for April expenses.
“This is to take care of applications that have already been filed,” noted Commissioner Matt Scherr.
Funding to help people meet their May financial needs hasn’t yet been addressed.
“I don’t want to mislead the public to think we have this figured out through the summer,” said Commissioner Jeanne McQueeney.
Eagle County Finance Director Jill Klosterman noted that while the county does have financial reserves to provide COVID-19 assistance, there is a finite level of help the organization can provide. And, she noted, the county has its own expenses to consider.
Klosterman reported that it takes about $13 million per month to run county government. With COVID-19, there will be drops in county sales tax and other revenue sources needed to meet that expense.
“This (COVID-19 Relief and Recovery Fund) is important money going out to the community,” Klosterman said. “We want to play a part, but we can’t be the only funding source.”
County Manager Jeff Shroll reported that in neighboring Pitkin County, private businesses have stepped up to help residents with cash assistance. He noted work is underway to begin a similar effort in Eagle County.
Commissioner Kathy Chandler-Henry said it’s vital that the county keep the big picture in mind as it works out the best way to assist residents through COVID-19.
“Just as families are feeling the pinch of how to meet their obligations, we are as well,” she said.
Eagle County residents can continue to apply for COVID-19 assistance by completing the application form at eaglecounty.us/covid19help. Phone requests cannot be taken, but those who would prefer to receive an application by mail may request one by calling 970-328-8888.
After submitting an application, individuals will be contacted for a brief interview to collect the information necessary to determine which resources may be available for each case.