Close to 1,000 people apply for COVID-19 relief in Aspen area |

Close to 1,000 people apply for COVID-19 relief in Aspen area

Carolyn Sackariason
The Aspen Times

COVID-19 resources:

Pitkin County emergency assistance form:

Pitkin County COVID-19 relief programs website:

General information:

Pitkin County COVID-19 symptom tracker:

Pitkin County COVID-19 emotional check-in:

Pitkin County Public Health Order “Stay at Home” until April 17:

Pitkin County Public Health’s Facebook page:

If you feel COVID-19 symptoms or need to be referred for other services, call:

Aspen to Parachute COVID-19 hotline (970) 429-6186) 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., seven days a week.

Mind Springs Health mental health support line:

1-877-519-7505 (Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.)


General information:

Eagle County COVID-19 relief programs:

Eagle County Public Health Order:

More than 800 people have applied to Pitkin County’s COVID-19 financial relief program, with the majority of them being Aspen residents, according to Nan Sundeen, director of health and human services for the county.

Aspen City Council on Monday unanimously voted to appropriate $200,000 to the county fund, which is just around $1.3 million.

The county has ponied up $1 million, and the town of Snowmass Village contributed $100,000 so far.

Council members agreed during Monday’s special meeting that much more will be required to help Aspen residents during this unprecedented crisis.

“People are saying that the $2 trillion federal package is not going to be sufficient,” Councilwoman Ann Mullins said. “We’re going to need more money … clearly the ($200,000) is not enough money for what we’re going to be facing in the next three months to three years, so the sooner we think about other sources of funds the better.”

Councilwoman Rachel Richards suggested that the city borrow as much as $5 million from the Wheeler Opera House fund, which has roughly $30 million in reserves, for local economic relief.

She also suggested that as much as $1 million be taken from the city’s housing fund to provide rental relief in municipal government-owned residential buildings, as well as those in the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority inventory and the free-market units where local workers reside.

“I think the magnitude of what we’re dealing with has come into sharper relief over the past week,” she said, referring to Gov. Jared Polis’ stay-at-home public health order and President Donald Trump giving guidelines that restrict Americans’ movement until April 30. “So we are all buckled in for a bumpy road.”

Council and city staff will discuss Richards’ proposal as early as next week.

As of Friday, 58% of the applicants for the Pitkin County relief fund are city residents and 16% were from Snowmass Village, according to Sundeen.

About $30,000 has been approved and of that, $25,000 has been doled out.

Sundeen said the county is distributing an average of between $600 and $1,800 to individuals and households.

“Eighty percent of that is for shelter,” she said Monday. “There has been some for food and gas and debit cards for other expenses.”

Applicants’ information is screened at three levels to determine eligibility and need.

Without getting into specifics about the criteria used to determine who and how much, Sundeen said people seeking financial assistance are asked certain questions like whether they have three months of shelter saved up, or if they were self-sufficient prior to March 14 when public health orders went into effect, drastically reducing employment opportunities resulting from the impacts of COVID-19.

The county has hired temporary workers and upped its volunteer base to help expedite processing the applications.

But still, it could take as long as a “few weeks to process,” according to an email that Sundeen sent Friday to applicants. “Be aware that someone will call you from a blocked phone number to conduct the required interview, so please answer your phone to help expedite your request.”

“We are calling people back as soon as we can,” Sundeen said Monday.

The financial relief is aimed at providing a bridge for local workers who are awaiting state and federal assistance, Sundeen said.

“It’s a bridge to April, not April 1,” she said.

Her email urged applicants to talk to their landlords in an attempt to negotiate a deferred payment until county relief eligibility is determined. Those with mortgages are urged to contact their mortgage lender to negotiate a deferred payment schedule.

The email also points to websites for other financial aid, like the Colorado Department of Labor, as well as local food banks.

The city’s funds may be eligible for reimbursement in the future through state and federal relief packages; however, there is no guarantee, according to city officials.

They acknowledged that the reimbursement processes also take time, while the need is immediate for the city’s economically vulnerable residents.

Sundeen said there have been no private donations made into the county relief fund.

She added that the community embracing the COVID-19 crisis mantra of “we are all in this together” motivates her.

“We really appreciate the efforts of neighbor to neighbor,” she said. “It’s inspiring and keeps us going.”

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