Demand on the rise for Garfield County’s human services programs |

Demand on the rise for Garfield County’s human services programs

John Gardner
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GARFIELD COUNTY, Colorado ” Garfield County Human Services Director Lynn Renick has seen a significant increase in applications for the Self Sufficiency Programs in recent months.

“Actually we’ve been looking at the numbers in some of our assistance programs, and we do have three specific areas of assistance that are really showing an impact,” Renick said.

The first is the federally regulated Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program (TANF), which provides cash assistance for families who qualify. That program saw a 40 percent increase in applications from January to November. But the number of actual applications was only 52 in November, according to Renick, which is still very low.

The Family Medicaid program, through which the county has more than 1,000 receiving aid for help with medical bills, has seen an increase in applications of 20 percent between January and November 2008.

Lastly, the county’s Food Assistance Program, which provides “food stamps” for those who qualify, has had a 30 percent increase from 577 cases in January to 749 cases in November.

This may just be an indication of what is to come in 2009.

“We anticipate seeing a continued increase in the first quarter of 2009,” Renick said.

Renick added that layoffs, specifically in the energy industry and construction trades, could be cause for higher numbers of applicants.

Statistics from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment show that for the first quarter of 2008 Garfield County’s construction industry represented 16 percent of the employed workers in the county. Retail trade and accommodations and food services followed, with 13 percent and 10 percent, respectively.

“Several years ago, we did have a significantly higher number, especially in the TANF program,” Renick said. “But then the economy became very strong, and we saw a significant decrease in the basic cash assistance, because anyone who is working just didn’t meet the income guidelines.” But numbers are increasing again, “and we do anticipate that it will continue into 2009, while the recession continues.”

The Self Sufficiency Programs are very different from the Federal Unemployment Program, as they’re an assistance program for those who may still have a job but take home less than a certain income. However, Self Sufficiency Programs Director Tricia Murray said that she has seen busier days in the past few weeks.

“I’ve noticed, just this last week, that there were more people coming in for applications for assistance,” Murray said.

While Garfield County may have been isolated from the recession that economists say began in December 2007, this could be the first signs that it’s well on its way to the region.

“Garfield County is a little bit of an anomaly, but at the same time it’s obvious that the recession is hitting here,” Renick said.

Contact John Gardner: 384-9114

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