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In a unanimous vote during their Sept. 15 session, Chaffee Board of County Commissioners approved funding to launch the new Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) being coordinated by the Chaffee County Community Foundation (CCCF).

Commissioner Keith Baker made the motion to approve the requested $63,920, (approximately half of the CCCF original ask) which will become a new grant pool to help the county’s many struggling nonprofits and the vote to approve the funding was unanimous. The new CRF grant funds will be managed by CCCF, and the application process, encompassing the entire county and municipal areas will also be managed by the community foundation.  Funds for CRF are provided by the county and municipalities and tied to the CARES act; as such the program is guided by timelines and goals specific to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gavin Wharton, age 9, one of The Boys & Girls Club’s longtime members. Photo courtesy of The Boys & Girls Club.

“We are really excited about this program,” said CCCF Executive Director Joseph Teipel. We have a clear pathway to having Buena Vista, Salida and the county participate together in what would be a two hundred-thousand-dollar program to support our nonprofits and youth.”

“Our Chaffee County nonprofits are providing vital assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic, so it is essential we support them to the extent we can,” said Baker. “This allocation balances current need with the potential contingencies.”

In the past week, the CCCF had announced that the original CCCF Emergency Response Fund (ERF) hit a milestone of 180 days of granting funds to locals and nonprofits to help them survive the economic effects of COVID-19.

Pausing ERF Assistance and the Emerging Need for Youth Support

“To date, your ERF support has helped 302 Chaffee County families and almost 500 individuals,” said Teipel. It also provided initial relief, on a smaller scale to local nonprofits. But he pointed out the challenges that lie ahead, with continued funding a growing issue as the pandemic stretches into the future.

Prior to the county’s vote (and a subsequent vote of support from Salida the evening of Sept. 15) the original ERF reached a fund balance that will force the pause of acceptance of new individual requests for assistance from the ERF beginning Monday, September 28. Teipel said this was a very hard decision to make because in addition to individuals still needing relief, applications from nonprofit organizations supplying real community services continue to roll in.

And among the newly emerging needs are financial support for more youth and child services. Many consider schools and childcare to be critical infrastructure required to allow businesses to operate — working parents worried about their children, or with a sick or quarantined child, need help to be able to continue as breadwinners.

“While I am able to work remotely while my son stays home, many are not as fortunate,” said Teipel. “CCCF is leading a countywide effort to increase youth and child services targeted at families who are forced with the impossible choice between going to work or watching their children. Together, and with donations for the new CRF, CCCF will continue to help solve the systemic problems our community is facing.”

It should be pointed out that the county’s role, as well as state and federal role in assisting struggling families is already extensive; including funding for the Department of Public Health and the Department of Human Services, which manages the funding and programming for FYI, the Communities that Care program, and a multitude of family support functions, including the SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program).  With two municipalities plus the county joining forces supporting the CRF, continuing needs for nonprofit support plus newly identified needs for youth and child services can be more effectively addressed.

“We don’t what might be coming down the road; we still have to roll out a COVID-19 vaccine at some point,” added Baker. “When that occurs, it might require materials, arrangements we don’t yet have, and we don’t know what they are.”

CCCF will continue to monitor the fund balance in the original ERF.  While grant activity there is currently paused, new donations may allow for future activity.  CCCF further reminds the community that the ERF was always intended to be a permanent fund; ready to address any new calamities, manmade or otherwise that may challenge Chaffee County.