This content was originally published by the Longmont Observer and is licensed under a Creative Commons license.
As the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to impact the community, the Boulder County Department of Housing & Human Services is urging residents to sign up for supports and benefits that are available now. Food, financial, and child care assistance, help with housing and rent, unemployment benefits and business loans, free or reduced-cost health insurance, and more are available to many residents who have been affected by the virus outbreak.
“While we know we are in this for a while, we’ll recover faster as a community if we get the help we need now,” said Frank Alexander, Director of the Boulder County Department of Housing & Human Services. “Nearly $2 billion in benefits and supports has been made available for our neighbors and business and non-profit owners, and this help can be the difference between suffering and stabilizing, and between economic devastation and flattening the curve of disruption.”
Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit Colorado in earnest in mid-March, Boulder County Housing and Human Services has received and responded to more than 22,000 texts, 1,900 voicemails, and 1,200 emails from community members seeking help. Food, housing, financial, and child care assistance are the most commonly-sought supports.
“We thank our community for helping one another by staying at home and wearing face coverings to reduce the severity of this outbreak, and we are here to support the whole community with the benefits and programs that are there for that very purpose,” said Boulder County Commissioner Deb Gardner. “We really are all in this together, so if each of us accesses the supports we need today, we’ll emerge from this stronger and more resilient.”
Boulder County Housing & Human Services has also set up a Housing Help Line and is boosting funding available for residents who have been impacted by COVID-19 and are seeking financial support to pay their rent or get other housing assistance. Boulder County residents needing assistance with covering housing rental costs can call 303-441-1206 and leave a detailed message about the help they need. A housing specialist will then return the call as soon as possible. In addition to rental assistance, other housing help includes landlord-tenant mediation, financial coaching, mortgage payment suspension and loan modification for homeowners and landlords, and more. Comprehensive information on housing resources for those impacted by COVID-19 is available at www.boco.org/COVID-19Housing.
An evictions moratorium is currently in place through May 31. Housing providers cannot remove tenants or their belongings, change the locks on rental properties, or shut off utilities without first going through the evictions process, which is not an option at this time. It is essential for landlords and tenants to work together to find a compromise that works for both parties.
Residents can also get a range of supports by visiting the Family Resource Centers in Boulder County, which include Sister Carmen Community Center in Lafayette (303-665-4342), Emergency Family Assistance Association (EFAA) in Boulder (303-442-3042), and OUR Center in Longmont (303-772-5529). These non-profit community partners provide financial assistance for rent and utilities, mortgage support, free food boxes or prepared meals, and much more.
“People from all walks of life have been hit hard by COVID-19, and no one should hesitate to get help to weather this and recover from it, so reach out to any of us as soon as you can,” said Suzanne Crawford, CEO of Sister Carmen Community Center. “It’s also important to encourage your friends, family, and neighbors to get the supports they need, and to be sure you’re checking in on those you know and offering help.”
General resource information, including child care and other financial assistance, unemployment and employment resources, health coverage, loans, grants, and other help for businesses and non-profits, mental and emotional health supports, and how to volunteer or donate is available at www.boco.org/COVID-19Resources. There are several community partners -including the county’s school districts- providing or delivering both prepared food and groceries to residents who have difficulty leaving home or who are most vulnerable to COVID-19. These resources can be found at www.boco.org/COVID-19FoodAssistance.
For the health and safety of staff and visitors during COVID-19, Boulder County Housing and Human Services offices are closed to the public through May 31. BCDHHS staff are providing services remotely and encourage residents to contact them to apply for benefits, ask questions, and get other supports. Visit www.boco.org/COVID-19ContactHHS to find out how to get in touch.