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Garfield County residents relying on COVID-19 relief

Kelly Williams, with LIFT-UP, prepares bags for volunteers to hand out to clients last week at teh Garfield County Fairgrounds in Rifle. (Kyle Mills / Citizen Telegram)

Garfield County residents are feeling the hurt from the coronavirus lockdowns.

Applications for federal food programs and Medicaid have doubled in April over the previous month, according to county officials.

Food charity LIFT-UP is serving nearly 12% of the population of the county, increasing the number of families served from less than 500 families to more than 2,000 in the past weeks, according to County Manager Kevin Batchelder.

More than 200 people have applied for the county’s General Assistance fund, a cash grant program that the commissioners funded with an extra $500,000.

The General Assistance funds, up to $3,000 per household, are available for food assistance, rent and utility payments, and certain personal expenses.

Of those who applied, 75 have been processed as of Monday and received either a check from the county, or were transferred to other programs like SNAP and TANF, Human Services Director Sharon Longhurst-Pritt told the commissioners Monday.

Some applications have been denied because the applicants didn’t submit verification documents, Longhurst-Pritt said.

The county also needs certain tax paperwork for internal purposes, but the self-reported information on employment, income, household size and need can be self-reported.

“We’re not verifying their employment at this time, but we are asking for some level of identification,” Longhurst-Pritt said.

The identification is to prove two things: That the person lives in the county, and has a lawful presence in the U.S.

“We do have eligibility requirements that we have to follow,” Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said. “That’s why undocumented immigrants will not be eligible for our financial assistance.”

But the information on how to apply — the best way is by calling human services directly at (970) 625-5282 or (970) 945-9191 — is not readily accessible, according to the Garfield County Human Service Commission.

Human Services Commission co-chair Jennifer Wherry praised the county’s work with the assistance fund, but said the public has had difficulty applying.

“It’s not intuitively found on the webpage, based on the feedback we’re getting,” Wherry said.

The board authorized $200,000 from the human services reserve fund to allow the department to hire more staff to take applications, and increased the frequency that assistance checks can be released.

“We gave authority to our finance department to cut checks every Wednesday, so we’ve cut down the amount of time people have to wait. It won’t be two or three weeks before you get the check,” Jankovsky said.

“If you were approved last week, your check should be cut this Wednesday,” he said.

tphippen@postindependent.com


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