New app streamlines state benefits process; Colorado officials urge Eagle County residents to apply | VailDaily.com

New app streamlines state benefits process; Colorado officials urge Eagle County residents to apply

David O. Williams
Special to the Daily

Colorado Department of Human Services officials want Eagle County residents — and people all over the state, really — to know that it just became a lot easier to keep track of the various benefits programs available to them via the brand-new MyCOBenefits smartphone app.

Lena Harris-Wilson, director of the Colorado Department of Human Services Division of Food and Energy Assistance, told the Vail Daily the new app would make it much easier for families enrolled in food, work and adult financial programs to track and maintain their benefits.

People still have to apply for assistance via the state's Program Eligibility and Application Kit (PEAK) website or at a county office, but the new app — available for both iPhones and Android devices — will allow people to track their benefits, maintain eligibility remotely by uploading photographed documents and receive text and email notifications through their phones.

Both the new MyCOBenefits app and the PEAK website are available in English and Spanish. PEAK allows people to apply for a whole host of programs that people may not think they're eligible for, especially in a high-cost-of-living area such as Eagle County, Harris-Wilson said.

“I feel like there are probably a lot more people who are eligible and have just not signed up because they don’t understand that we factor in the cost of housing and utilities and other factors, as well.”Lena Harris-WilsonDirector, Department of Human Services Division of Food and Energy Assistance

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Those programs include SNAP-Ed (food assistance), TANF (Colorado Works), Adult Financial, senior assistance, referrals for the WIC (Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children) program and a portal for national school lunch programs, to name a few. LEAP (Low-income Energy Assistance Program) will be joining the PEAK system in November.

"The app is to monitor and provide information so that your benefits may continue, so it shows information about any transactions you've made with your (EBT) benefit card and it allows you to look at history and current balances," Harris-Wilson said of MyCOBenefits. "It allows you to upload documents to the county to make sure that your case can continue to move forward and simplifies that process so that clients don't have to go into a county office for that support."

'Get a deduction'

That could be huge in Eagle County, where it's often difficult to get around, especially in the winter, Harris-Wilson said. She also thinks more people in the Vail Valley are eligible for assistance but don't necessarily apply for benefits for a variety of reasons.

"What you'll see for your area, with the high cost of living, people who submit for benefits will be able to take advantage of their housing costs being more because that affects their benefit amount," Harris-Wilson said. "Once we can message to them that they can actually get a deduction based on their cost of living there, people may see that it's more advantageous to apply versus feeling like it's not worth it."

Last month, the caseload in Eagle County for the SNAP food program alone was 534 families.

"I feel like there are probably a lot more people who are eligible and have just not signed up because they don't understand that we factor in the cost of housing and utilities and other factors, as well," Harris-Wilson said.

Once people do apply and start receiving benefits, the new MyCOBenefits app, which first became available Sunday, June 10, will streamline the process of maintaining and monitoring those benefits — both for clients and county administrators.

"With this app, customers and county employees will have instant access to resources they want and need," said Megan Rymski, a project manager for the Colorado Department of Human Services. "It will reduce trips to county offices and increase both the customers' and the counties' efficiency in maintaining eligibility."

Find the free MyCOBenefits app in the Google or iTunes app store to learn more. For information or to apply for benefits via the PEAK website, visit http://www.colorado.gov/peak.