The average Garfield County family is barely getting by |

The average Garfield County family is barely getting by

Pete Fowler
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” The average family in Garfield County can’t afford to live in Glenwood Springs and barely has any leftover cash after paying the bills.

The average family might be “Mary,” 28, “Bill,” 29, and their two kids, 3 and 7. They’ve been married for nine years and they live in Silt. Cash is so tight that they try to avoid going to the doctor and dentist and can’t save for a down payment on a home. They pay $1,395 a month for rent.

“They were both born and grew up in Glenwood Springs, but they can’t afford to live in Glenwood Springs, which is not uncommon for this area,” said Julie Olson, executive director of the nonprofit Advocate Safehouse Project.

Olson and other Garfield County Human Services Commission representatives presented what life is like for this fictional family in Garfield County to county commissioners last week. The Human Services Commission said this family depicts life for an average family in Garfield County.

Bill and Mary’s combined annual income is about $63,000. Olson said in an interview Monday that may seem like a lot to some people, but it’s important to keep in mind the high costs of supporting two kids. She said Mary and Bill pay around $800 a month.

Bill works for Garfield County and Mary works at City Market. They share one vehicle to get to work and get the kids to school. They’re physically healthy. They have lots of friends and family connections.

“We wanted to present a family that is not necessarily knocking on any of our doors saying, ‘Help, help, help,” Olson said.

Karen Meier-Binde, of the county Department of Human Services, said, “When you take their income and you minus out the expenses this family has $169 a month.”

If an unexpected automotive or medical expense comes up, or if one of the parents lose their job or gets work hours cut, the family could quickly go from having a cushion of $169 per month to having serious problems.

Sandy Swanson, of the nonprofit Family Visitor Programs, said, “We just wanted you to be aware of the fact that we have many families that are living in this kind of situation where they don’t need us now and they’re doing well and everything is happening fine, and all of a sudden minor issues start building up and families then need a lot of help,” told county commissioners.

Bill and Mary want to stay in the area, but they might not be able to afford to due to the higher cost of living in the area compared to other places.

The Human Services Commission recommended county commissioners look at things like increasing child care subsidies and housing and rental subsidies.

Swanson said she wants to help families in this situation so they can afford to eventually buy a home because “$169 a month isn’t going to do it in terms of saving for a down payment.”

Contact Pete Fowler: 384-9121

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