Pitkin County earmarks $500K to help Aspen-area residents affected by COVID-19
The Aspen Times
Pitkin County commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to authorize a half-million dollars to help residents affected by the COVID-19 virus pay rent, buy groceries and keep up with other economic needs.
“Now is the time to pull together … (in) an unfailing effort to support each other,” Pitkin County Manager Jon Peacock said during Tuesday’s regular weekly commissioner meeting. “People are scared. People are in need right now.”
The $500,000 in emergency assistance funds from the county will be used as a “bridge” to immediately fund community needs until expected disaster relief funds come from the state and federal governments, Peacock said.
The money came from an already budgeted $150,000 county emergency fund plus another $350,000 from the general fund.
The money can be used by residents for child care, transportation, food, housing and many other needs, he said.
“We will evaluate needs on a case-by-case basis,” Peacock said.
It can also be used, for example, to buy protective equipment or other necessary items for county emergency responders, he said.
“This is such an unprecedented event,” Peacock said. “It’s such a significant closure of the main economic drivers of our community.”
Beginning Tuesday evening, Pitkin County’s website (pitkincounty.com) now features a page providing resources for Roaring Fork Valley residents from Aspen to Parachute, said Nan Sundeen, Pitkin County’s director of health and human services.
The page, with a link to emergency COVID-19 assistance, provides information for people who live in Garfield, Eagle and Pitkin counties about how to file for economic assistance.
County residents can call 970-429-3350 with questions about economic assistance. Some residents might have to leave a message, though representatives will call them back, Sundeen said.
County officials hope to be able to begin distributing money to people within a week or two, though options are available for those requiring immediate assistance, she said.
Sundeen also reminded those who have lost their jobs or been laid off to file for unemployment benefits if possible.
The county also is assisting about 50 senior residents with meals four days a week, she said. Seniors with any needs at all can call the county at 970-920-5432 for assistance.
In addition, healthy county residents who want to volunteer to help the local government run phone hotlines or other services should email Valerie Carlin at the Aspen Community Foundation.
Aspen Skiing Co. employees, in particular, have asked how to volunteer their time, Sundeen said.
Meanwhile, the city of Aspen has migrated all of its departments online and via phone, limiting people from going to government buildings, according to a news release issued Tuesday afternoon.
In cases where meetings are essential, the departments are offering technological alternatives.
The public is asked to visit http://www.cityofaspen.com and take advantage of online services available, including QAspen for non-emergency issues or requests.
The city’s primary phone number is 970-920-5000 and all customers will be routed to the appropriate department.
If in-person meetings are unavoidable, they will be only done via appointment, according to the release.
The public also is encouraged to pay all bills online, or use the drop-off box located at City Hall.
It’s too soon to know if the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority board will make residents in deed-restricted units adhere to working the required 1,500 hours a year in the county.
Hundreds of locals have been laid off, or are not currently working due to the ski areas and restaurant and bars being ordered to close by Colorado Gov. Jared Polis in an effort to slow the COVID-19 spread in the state
“It is too early to say or commit to how we will evaluate the 1,500 minimum work hour requirement for qualified employees in APCHA housing,” authority executive director Mike Kosdrosky said. “There has been no official conversation about it with policymakers. … Like everyone and everything else, this is a fluid situation and we don’t have all the answers yet.”
Both the governor’s office and the Colorado’s epidemiologist, Rachel Herlihy, said Tuesday that state officials are continuing to monitor the expected surge in the contagion, and did not rule out further limitations on day-to-day movement of people.
Cities in California have ordered residents to “shelter in place,” and the mayor of New York City was considering it Tuesday.
“The governor has broad emergency powers to protect public health and safety in the event of a pandemic like the one we are experiencing,” Conor Cahill, the governor’s press secretary, wrote in an email Tuesday. “The governor will continue to respond as appropriate to changing circumstances.”
In a media briefing Tuesday, Herlihy said the state supports the federal government’s recommendation that people not gather in groups of more than 10.
“I think we’re continuing to look at the social-distancing measures that might be needed to protect our communities,” she said. “We’re having policy discussions about those and we’ll be moving forward with additional recommendations as appropriate.”
The Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment launched a new website that provides data on the state’s COVID-19 testing results, including those that are completed, positive cases by county, transmission type and patient outcome, and the number of hospitalizations and fatalities. The data will be updated daily around 4 p.m. each day.
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