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New Chaffee Public Health Orders tighten down on non-essential services.

The COVID-19 message is simple; Stay home, Stop the spread, Save lives. A  two-part special meeting of the Chaffee Board of County Commissioners on Thursday, March 26, resulted in updated Public Health Orders related to COVID-19, following tightened public health orders issued by Colorado Governor Jared Polis. The new Chaffee Public Health Orders will  tighten operation on non-essential services.

Commissioners worked with the Chaffee Department of Public Health and the Office of Emergency Management, as well as the county legal department, to finalize an order in line with the Colorado Executive Order . In a few areas, Chaffee County has instigated more strict orders than the state’s.

The county will enforce a “no recreational camping order” more strict than state standards. It’s focus; to ensure that people aren’t entering the county for recreation at a time when tourism is being discouraged. This does not include those homeless, in-county residents taking shelter in camping situations. Chaffee County has also clarified its work guidelines related to construction activity, allowing construction work to continue as long as the state’s social distancing directives can be followed.

Chaffee Commissioners approve funding for DHS and Chaffee Disaster Relief Fund Challenge Grant.

In a move demonstrating strong support for the newly-created Emergency Response Fund managed by the Chaffee County Community Foundation (CCCF), Chaffee Commissioners approved a $25,000 grant that put the Emergency Response Fund over the $200,000 mark.

It also moved to assure the public that it is fully-funding the budget for the Chaffee Department of Human Services (CDHS), which is moving rapidly to help Chaffee families impacted by the economic fallout resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.

“We already have a department to provide assistance to those in need, it’s the Chaffee Department of Human Services, “ said the Chair of Chaffee Board of County Commissioners Greg Felt. “ The impetus of some sort of commitment – an allocation made by [we commissioners] to DHS and to this pot would be a statement.”  He asked CCCF Director Joseph Teipel if making a symbolic grant would be important.

“This [disaster] funding is meant to increase the resources available to help families,” said Teipel. “Our partnership with DHS is the crux of our assistance provision model. It [county funding]t will make an impact either way. “ He reminded commissioners that, “We’re the fallback – we have some flexibility on the eligibility criteria. We’ve tweaked our requirements – we offer the CCCF as a backup resource to county residents.”

“The reality is the DHS system you get impeded with those kinds of protocols, you learn how to leverage things,” said Chaffee Director of General Administration Bob Christiansen. “I feel very comfortable with this. I’m glad we have the opportunity to create funds – to interface between the two groups.”

“We do have a plan right now with Joseph and CCCF, for those folks coming to us for assistance who don’t fit our funding streams,” said Director of Human Services Dave Henson. “We can pass them on for consideration to the CCCF.”

He added, “I’m excited and positive about the CCCF work, but if the county is going to put money into this, we have an agency [here in the county] with 40 FTEs (full time employees) whose job it is to do this – we’re set up to do this.”

It was pointed out that for the past 20 months, DHS hasn’t used its full allocation from the county.  It has had a 12 percent allocation [match] to state and federal funding, but has only used nine percent.

Courtesy photo. Washington State Public Health.

Henson said that right now DHS is getting in requests for between $1,500 and $4,000 related to the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. “We’re trying to make people as whole as possible, for as long as possible,” said Henson. “Through our TANF program (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families ) we are already targeting two months rent. We’re trying to protect people’s residences. But as these layoffs continue, we’ll have a pronounced need in a month or two. I haven’t many solutions for these folks.” He reminded commissioners that the TANF solution can only be used one time, which is where CCCF emergency support could come in. “Once we provide that, and that family comes back to us, our hands are tied due to spending restrictions.”

Chaffee Finance Director Dan Short said that to fully fund the DHS budget, the county will look at extra funding out of the county general fund. By funding both resources, county commissioners indicated they are providing additional aid for DHS, and encouraging members of the public to keep making donations to the CCCF Emergency Response Fund.

The U.S. government has now done three aid packages designed to provide public health protections and economic relief for this unprecedented situation; a bill on March, 6, a second on March 13, and the $2 trillion package passed by the U.S. House of Representatives and signed into law on March 27.