The Telluride Foundation is excited to announce a new match opportunity for its COVID-19 Response Fund. The Johnson Family Foundation is generously providing $50,000 to be matched dollar for dollar to help us reach an additional $100,000 for the Response Fund! This challenge match is none too soon, as the Response Fund is almost exhausted, and local family and individual needs remain and are in fact increasing.
Since March of this year, the Telluride Foundation has raised over $1,150,000 for the Response Fund, distributing $320,000 in emergency grants to organizations and, now, over $800,000 in Good Neighbor cash assistance to support 500 individuals and families living or working in San Miguel, Ouray, and western Montrose counties, and Rico. As of today, we have less than $25,000 remaining. In April and May, before the government assistance programs kicked-in, we were providing over $120,000/month in Good Neighbor assistance.
The economic recession caused by COVID-19 may have ended for many high-wage workers, but it persists for low-wage workers, many of whom have lost jobs and remain unemployed. While employment rates have rebounded to nearly pre-COVID levels for high-wage workers, they remain significantly lower for low-wage workers. Federal and state benefit programs helped many get by over the summer, but some residents were not eligible, and, moreover, these programs will be expiring at the end of the year. According to the New York Times, a study found that over 7 million workers will lose their benefits with the end of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which provides coverage for gig workers, the self-employed, and independent contractors. An additional 4.6 million will be cut off from Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, which kicks in when state employment benefits run out.
In Colorado, the wages of workers making $60,000 or more annually have only decreased by 1.4% since January 2020; however, the wages of those making $27,000 and less are down over 18%. The Telluride region is no different. While government sales tax is up and real estate transfer tax collections is at an all-time high, many families and workers, especially lower wage service workers, are in deep financial stress.
The Telluride Foundation is acutely aware of this stress and continues to seek donations for its COVID-19 Response Fund to support its Good Neighbor financial assistance program.