In just one day, Eagle County’s COVID-19 relief fund nets more than 1,000 applications
Assistance with rent and mortgage payments is top request
EAGLE — Eagle County’s $1.15 million COVID-19 relief and recovery fund was only hours old when Mary’s husband submitted an application.
“My husband works at a restaurant in Edwards as a kitchen manager,” she explained. He was laid off last week.
“We know his employer is not the bad guy, and they are doing what they can in this difficult time,” Mary said.
But that doesn’t change the fact that this local family of four lost half its income last week and the rent, utility and other payments are looming large.
“I bought a new car in January, so that’s added expense as well,” Mary said. Even as she listed the bills piling up with half as much income to pay them, Mary wants people to know she isn’t an extravagant spender.
“The car I bought is new to me, not a new car. It is the first nice car I’ve ever bought,” she said. “I just got rid of a 15-year-old Subaru that had 250,000-plus miles on it. We’re not going around buying expensive cars or anything.”
The application from Mary’s family is just one of 1,446 received by the county program by midday Thursday. The fund was announced Tuesday afternoon and has $400,00 set aside for direct assistance to county residents.
According to Kris Widlak, the communications director for the county, requests for rent or mortgage assistance are the No. 1 need. Help with utility payments is second and food assistance is third.
After the first day, the county had received more than 1,000 online applications. When they finish the form, applicants are instructed that the county will be calling back to determine if they are eligible for assistance.
“Our goal is definitely to get money to the people who need it most as quickly as possible,” Widlak said.
Folks have lots of questions — how long will it take to hear back, how long will it take to get cash and what are the eligibility requirements? The county specifically decided against setting hard and fast rules for its program in an effort to be more nimble and responsive.
“We did not set a maximum dollar amount for assistance. It is based on need and also based on other resources available,” Widlak said. “We are trying to take a holistic approach with all the community programs offering assistance and using this program to fill the gaps.”
For example, if an applicant is concerned about paying for health insurance, the county can steer him or her to expanded Medicaid options. If an applicant needs food, various community groups are already providing assistance. The interview process helps the county connect people with the resources they need, Widlak said, but it does take time to complete each conversation.
“Those phone interviews are taking about an hour each and we are calling back everyone who submitted an application to have an interview with them,” Widlak said. “We have put out the call in our own organization to ask for volunteers to make phone calls back to people.”
“It will take five to seven days, right now, to return all calls,” said Megan Burch, the county’s director of human services. “We are going to cut that down as we train more people.”
Burch added that the delivery method for assistance dollars will vary, depending on the need.
“We are able to pay some applications immediately, on a county credit card,” Burch said.
Other requests require documentation. A rent payment, for example, requires a W-9 form from the landlord. “Then we have to go through our internal check request process,” Burch said.
But even if help is a few days down the road, Widlak said residents are glad to have a local option.
“People are very grateful. This is definitely a different approach for us and it is definitely an unusual program,” Widlak said.
Any Eagle County resident who has been financially impacted by COVID-19 may apply for assistance by completing the 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.
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