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January 22, 2019

Boulder County community partners vow support during federal shutdown

Thousands of additional families may lose critical supports if shutdown continues

Boulder County, Colo. - A network of twenty community partner organizations is vowing to support the thousands of households who have been or will be affected by the partial federal government shutdown. Boulder County Family Resource Network (FRN) Regional Council partners, including community non-profits, school districts, and county and city governments have submitted an open letter to the community offering financial, food, housing, and employment resources and assistance, among many other services.

“As program funding is suspended, these important supports for families and children, individuals, seniors, and our workforce will disappear,” writes Sister Carmen Community Center CEO Suzanne Crawford, who also chairs the Boulder County Family Resource Network Regional Council. “This is especially true for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), WIC (Women, Infants, and Children), and Housing Choice Vouchers, which collectively serve tens of thousands of people across Boulder County. In addition, federal employees in our community are seeing the need for assistance — many for the first time in their lives — as their pay is suspended due to furloughs. We are here to help all of our neighbors through the effects of this partial federal government shutdown.”

With no end in sight, the shutdown may soon impact thousands of additional Boulder County households, including low-income families, seniors, children, and others who are faced with an array of challenges in the community. For example, if a resolution is not reached soon, funding for the SNAP program — which serves about 26,000 people in Boulder County each year — would not be available beginning in March. In addition, because of the shutdown, February SNAP payments were issued to current enrollees early — in January — which means they will need to stretch this food assistance through the next month. The SNAP program is still accepting new applications, but — assuming the shutdown continues — only through the end of January.

“Our current household food assistance is $150 dollars a month, which covers about a quarter of our food budget,” said Kelly Wilson, a Boulder native and SNAP participant striving to remain in her community. “I am a full-time caretaker for my son, who has autism. I am feeding a teenager—he eats a lot—which means that our food budget keeps us from saving because the cost of food just keeps increasing. We make it through three weeks of the month, and then the fourth week is really difficult for us.”

Family Resource Network partners such as Sister Carmen in Lafayette, EFAA in Boulder, OUR Center in Longmont, and food pantries in Nederland, Ward, Lyons, and Allenspark offer food assistance in the form of walk-in food banks, meals served on-site, and more. The Boulder County Department of Housing and Human Services (BCDHHS), which administers SNAP, is also reaching out to residents about the program’s deadlines and additional assistance available in the community.

“Our teams are working full speed to process SNAP applications, communicate with clients, and coordinate with our community partners for the increasing likelihood that food banks and emergency food providers could see increased demand in the coming weeks,” said Susan Grutzmacher, Director of BCDHHS’ Community Support Division, which oversees basic needs programs like food assistance and child care supports. “New SNAP applications must be received and processed by 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 30 to be funded through the current temporary continuing resolution. We are also doing our best to communicate this information to new clients, some of whom may be furloughed federal workers.”

Housing supports are increasingly in demand as furloughed federal workers seek emergency mortgage, rent, and utilities assistance. This increased demand for housing assistance comes at a time when housing unaffordability is already at a record high across the region, and while the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is closed and unable to allocate full funding for its 2019 contracts. HUD oversees the Housing Choice Vouchers (sometimes referred to as “Section 8”) programs nationally, which are administered locally by the Boulder County Housing Authority to serve 775 households in the community. These households include seniors living on a fixed income, veterans, single parents with children, people with severe developmental disabilities, and other very low-income children and families. Some of these households also rely on SNAP benefits and could be doubly affected by the shutdown.

“Housing Choice Voucher rental assistance payments go directly to Boulder County landlords who are choosing to help low-income seniors, veterans, families and individuals remain in their community to work, go to school, and be near loved ones,” said Norrie Boyd, Director of BCDHHS Housing Division. “This federal program currently infuses $760,000 per month in rental assistance into Boulder County and we had expected that to grow to $850,000 per month as new households activated their new vouchers with landlords. Unlike the SNAP program, we should have reserve funding for these housing vouchers through April. However, if the shutdown continues, we would need to try to access other less certain funding sources.”

In addition to food and housing supports, members of the Boulder County Family Resource Network provide a wide range of other wraparound services for local families, including health coverage, child care, safety, education, skill building, parenting supports, and more. Boulder County’s three family resource centers—OUR Center, EFAA, and Sister Carmen—are physical locations for residents to seek multiple supports and services during the shutdown. In addition to the family resource centers, there are many other local food banks, faith-based organizations, and non-profits working to help. For an updated list of resources available and the shutdown’s impacts on benefits programs, visit Boulder County residents looking for help and support can seek the following services from Family Resource Network members:

  • EFAA (Boulder): Food assistance/walk-in food bank; financial assistance for utilities, rent or mortgage, and medical bills; hotel vouchers; case management to find the right community resources; and access to temporary family housing and transition housing.
  • Sister Carmen Community Center (Lafayette): Food assistance/walk-in food bank; financial assistance for utilities, rent or mortgage, prescriptions and eyeglasses, and transportation; resource referrals for employment services, housing programs, senior resources, dental care, and domestic violence support; behavioral health counseling; and enrollment in public benefits program (federal funding dependent).
  • OUR Center (Longmont): Food assistance and walk-in food pantry; hot breakfast and lunch; financial assistance for utilities and rent; resource referrals for employment services, housing programs, family law, health care access; substance abuse and mental health services; job training and education; and parenting supports.
  • Peak to Peak Alliance: Food assistance via food pantries in Nederland, Ward, Lyons, and Allenspark; financial assistance for rent or mortgage; mental health services; and other support, services and referrals with help from the Mountain Resource Liaisons.
  • Boulder County: The Boulder County Department of Housing and Human Services, the Boulder County Department of Community Services, and Boulder County Public Health collaborate through the Family Resource Network to provide supports and services and make referrals and connections to FRCs and other resources.

“We are fortunate to live in a community where people care about each other and neighbors help neighbors,” Suzanne Crawford adds in the FRN letter. “We understand that all our neighbors deserve to have both hope and help, and we will continue to work to ensure it.”