Garfield County allocates more local assistance funds as welfare benefit claims increase drastically |

Garfield County allocates more local assistance funds as welfare benefit claims increase drastically

In this April photo, LIFT-UP employee Rhonda Derhamner packs a bag with breakfast foods including cereal as LIFT-UP prepares emergency food bags for distribustion.
Kyle Mills/Post Independent

Garfield County approved this week another $300,000 for local assistance related to the economic impacts of the coronavirus outbreak, as claims for county welfare assistance have ballooned.

County commissioners agreed to match an anonymous donor’s $100,000 contribution to the Aspen Community Foundation. The money is to be distributed to local nonprofits serving Garfield County residents, including general financial assistance, food distribution, legal aid and mental health services.

The board also approved $50,000 each ($200,000 total) to the River Center, Roaring Fork School District, Catholic Charities and the Salvation Army for those organizations’ various assistance programs.

To date, commissioners have allocated more than $600,000 in emergency funding to the community, including $500,000 for the various Garfield County Department of Human Services assistance programs.

It came just in the nick of time, as Human Services saw 1,328 applications for assistance during April alone, most of which were in direct relation to the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis, DHS officials informed county commissioners at their May 18 meeting.

DHS Director Sharon Longhurst-Pritt reported the county paid out nearly $1.4 million in local benefits in April, including more than $1 million for food assistance alone.

By comparison, March assistance claims totaled $629,000, and February brought $648,000 in claims, she said.

Nearly 4,500 people received food assistance in April — an increase of 1,000 from February. On average, DHS receives roughly 100 new applications a month, Longhurst-Pritt said.

In addition, the department received a total of 1,328 applications for direct financial assistance in April, after processing 842 applications in March and 591 in February.

As of May 15, 9,308 Garfield County residents are receiving assistance, up from 8,212 on the same date last year, Longhurst-Pritt said.

“We have a huge influx of applications and we are providing assistance for those in need.” she said. “The applications are being processed in a very timely manner. We want to see all our clients receiving the assistance they need during this difficult time.”

Human services has also received 449 applications for emergency assistance, of which 370 are for general assistance and 136 for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) disaster program.

The county has distributed $312,000 in emergency assistance, including $87,000 for TANF and $225,000 for general assistance, according to the monthly Human Services report. 

Also this spring, county commissioners allocated $100,000 in support of the LIFT-UP food bank, which greatly expanded its food delivery services due to the increased need from Carbondale to Parachute. An additional $40,000 was granted to support the Grand Valley Health Meals on Wheels program.

For additional data and trends regarding government assistance programs, see the Human Services data graph that is posted on the Garfield County Human Services home page.

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