Jobless residents flood Eagle County looking for help | AspenTimes.com

Jobless residents flood Eagle County looking for help

Chris Outcalt
Vail correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

EAGLE COUNTY, Colo. ” The county’s Health and Human Services department in Eagle County had almost as many walk-in clients in the first eight days of the year as it typically does in an entire month.

The department planned for an increased demand to services, but the need has been overwhelming, said Suzanne Vitale, director of the Health and Human Services Department.

“They’re coming in because they lost their jobs,” Vitale said. “They don’t know how to navigate the system ” all they know is they lost their job and can’t pay rent.”

One hundred and fifteen people stopped by the office the first week in January. The department is used to handling about 150 walk-ins a month, Vitale said. The county received 40 applications for food assistance programs in that same eight-day period ” 33 is the average for a month, Vitale said.

The county offers a variety food and rental assistance and can also help residents apply for state and federal help.

“People are coming in because they are in some crisis,” Vitale said. “They’re coming in and saying ‘what do I do.'”

Vitale asked the commissioners Tuesday to approve overtime for the department, an additional part-time employee and to start advertising for a new full-time position to handle the increased demand.

“The question is, is this a rush at the beginning or do you anticipate this demand staying the same until such a time when we reach the bottom,” Commissioner Peter Runyon said.

Vitale said she wasn’t sure how long the high level of demand would last, but wanted to be prepared in case it goes on for a while.

“We’re not sure if this is a blip, but we had enough of a cause to ask,” she said.

The commissioners approved overtime for the department and the advertising of a new position. The board would still have to approve the hiring of a new employee.

“We’re trying to be proactive and make sure we have the capacity to help people,” Vitale said.

coutcalt@vaildaily.com


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