TELLURIDE, Colo. (May 11, 2021) – While the pandemic is not over, many are starting to sense their old routines coming back. With this renewed hope and appreciation of normalcy, the Telluride Foundation and Tri-County Health Network (TCHNetwork) reached out to some of the families impacted by COVID-19 who had relied on the Good Neighbor Fund (GNF) assistance program to get by; we wanted to hear their stories and see how they were doing approximately one year later. While the Foundation and TCHNetwork, which helps administers the program, have been busy raising money for the Fund, collecting data associated with the assistance grants, and completing grant reports, we realized that the numbers do not begin to tell the whole story nor express the true impact the GNF assistance program has had on local families.
For example, the story of Don and Isabel (stories do not include real names) illustrates how the GNF helps families access comprehensive services, providing long-term stability. Isabel and her husband, Don, both work in the tourism. Don ended up contracting a serious case of COVID, and he was hospitalized for several weeks with the virus. After he was released from the hospital, he was still too weak to work. Isabel picked up more hours at her job; however, it wasn’t enough to make up for the lost income from Don. Isabel contacted the GNF to get help with their rent, and they were able to pay rent for two months, which gave Don time to get his strength back so he could return to work. TCHNetwork was also able to connect Isabel and Don to emergency Medicaid to help with Don’s hospital bills, Energy Outreach Colorado to help with their electric and gas payments, and a walker for Don to use when he returned home from the hospital since he struggled to get around when Isabel was gone at work all day. Don has returned to work and he and Isabel are back on their feet. They may have been evicted if not for the help they received with the rent from the GNF.
The Telluride Foundation’s GNF has distributed over $1,500,000 across three counties since March 2020. It has helped over 700 individuals and families with financial assistance for rent, food, medicine, and other basic human necessities, including behavioral health services. Rent payments were the primary assistance request, with 78% of funds paid for this essential need. No one could have anticipated the gravity of the need of families and individuals for critical basic necessities due to the economic impacts of COVID, such as unemployment, under-employment, the inability to work because of illness or sick family members, and/or the demands on households with young families trying to balance work and online school.
One such young family needed help when work hours were decreased due to state and county regulations. John and Kathy live in the region with their new baby. Kathy is disabled and unable to work, while John works at a hotel. John’s hours were cut due to COVID, and he and Kathy ended up getting behind on their rent. They called the GNF panicking, as they have no family who they can turn to for help, and they were stressed about being evicted with their baby. The GNF was able to pay two months rent for John and Kathy. It also helped to enroll their family into SNAP to help pay for food and referred the family to WIC. John’s hours will increase again once the summer season starts so they will be able to meet their expenses once again. John reached out to thank TCHNetwork and the Telluride Foundation for giving him, Kathy, and their child a hand-up during this challenging time.
While the GNF is currently on hold (except grants through the Ouray County Response Fund and San Miguel Count Behavioral Health Fund) pending re-establishing the fund with more donations, it provides grants of up to $1,500 for urgent needs. GNF grants are made to people who live and work in Telluride, as well as individuals living in Rico, Norwood, the west ends of San Miguel and Montrose counties, and Ouray and Ridgway. Good Neighbor recipients vary, from long-term locals to newer residents and from seniors to immigrants. TCHNetwork’s bilingual/bicultural staff assist clients with not only GNF assistance grants but also in navigating additional government relief sources and community resources. However, a common story among many is the fact that this is the first time they have ever needed or received financial assistance, and they are extremely grateful.
Although for most GNF applicants, one-time financial assistance might be enough to get through a challenging time; however, for others, the year-long pandemic has caused consistent struggles, depleting savings accounts and leaving people wondering if they can ever get back on their feet. Dana lives in Telluride and has worked at the same restaurant for years. When COVID hit this region, she lost her job. She was ineligible for unemployment benefits or a stimulus payment. Fortunately, she did have a savings account that she was able to live off of until the summer season. Dana was able to start working again during the summer months of 2020, but the restaurant where she worked was operating with more limited staffing and cut her hours. At that time, Dana applied to get assistance from the GNF, which helped to pay her rent and food to keep her stable and allow her to continue to live in our community and provide vital services as a food service employee. Dana continued to work the maximum number of hours she was given at her restaurant job, but she still struggled to keep up with the high cost of living in Telluride and she drained her savings account. She came back and applied to the GNF, which once again helped her with her rent and food expenses.
For more on how to donate or information about resources, please visit the Telluride Foundation’s website: the Regional Response Fund donation page at https://telluridefoundation.org/responsefund/; community resources and how to apply, https://telluridefoundation.org/covid-19-community-resources/; or for more information about the Ouray County Response Fund, https://telluridefoundation.org/ouray-county-response-fund/.
The Telluride Foundation exists to create a stronger Telluride and regional community through the promotion and support of philanthropy. 2021 marks 20 years of making more possible through the Telluride Foundation’s commitment to enrich the quality of life of the residents, visitors, and workforce of the Telluride region. The Telluride Foundation is a nonprofit, apolitical community foundation that makes grants to nonprofits, owns, and operates programs that meet emerging and unmet community needs, and makes investments. The Foundation approaches this work through the lens of its core values of inclusion, self-reliance, and innovation. Its work is funded through the generous support of individual donors as well as grants from state and national foundations. The Foundation hopes the community will join it in celebrating its 20th anniversary as it honors the nonprofits, donors, and community members who have all partnered together to achieve a significant positive impact on the region. For more information click on www.telluridefoundation.org.