Legislators work to keep Garfield County locals housed | AspenTimes.com

Legislators work to keep Garfield County locals housed

John Colson
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Two of Colorado’s legislators in the nation’s capitol are working to maintain Garfield County’s aid to families in need of housing assistance, and a local official said the work already has borne fruit.

Sen. Michael Bennet and Rep. John Salazar, both Democrats, on Thursday fired off a letter to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, asking the assistant secretary for Public and Indian Housing to see that the Garfield County Housing Authority not lose money that has been keeping roofs over the heads of 76 local families.

“I am very pleased with Rep. Salazar and Sen. Bennet for all the work they are doing,” said housing authority director Geneva Powell. “There is a ray of hope.”

Recently, the housing authority sent letters to the 76 families, and 44 landlords, telling them they would no longer be receiving rental assistance under the HUD Housing Choice Voucher program. The reason given was HUD’s budget cutbacks, which were being passed on to 2,400 housing agencies around the U.S.

After Sept. 30, Powell had announced, her office will be getting $52,000 less per month from HUD, a fate that she said is affecting housing authorities across the nation as a result of the ongoing national recession.

The funding was meant to help families earning less than half of the area median income, which for a family of four in Garfield County is $35,700.

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The county housing authority has been providing rent assistance since it was formed in 1985, and in 2008 helped 364 families per month and paid out more than $2 million to area landlords from Carbondale to Parachute. So far in 2009, Powell’s office has helped 387 families per month, to the tune of more than $1.6 million in assistance, she said.

The families pay up to 30 percent of the monthly rent, Powell said, and the average amount paid to each family has been $612 per month.

The letter from Bennet and Salazar, addressed to HUD assistant secretary Sandra B. Henriquez, noted that the agency had already promised $89 million of a $100-million “set-aside” fund intended by Congress to “support housing authorities during times of financial hardship,” but that $11 million remained to be disbursed.

Bennet and Salazar urged Henriquez to give the Garfield County Housing Authority “careful consideration” when deciding where to send that money.

Powell said she has been told by HUD officials that some level of funding will come to Garfield County, but that no details had been offered.

“I believe that the work that John Salazar and Michael Bennet are doing will make the difference in whether Garfield County receives funds,” she declared.

If the money arrives before Sept. 30, she said, she will cancel the termination notices for some or all of the families.

jcolson@postindependent.com

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