Data shows rental assistance is keeping workers in Summit County
When Breckenridge resident Juliane Hurst was laid off from her job at the beginning of the pandemic, she was convinced she would have to return to her home in the Philippines.
“I was stressed because I just got here to America,” she said. “I was thinking of moving back to the Philippines because there’s nothing to do out here.”
Hurst is one of many in Summit County’s local workforce who found themselves strapped for cash and unsure what to do when the pandemic hit. She’s also among the more than 1,700 households that have received financial assistance through the Family & Intercultural Resource Center’s rent and mortgage relief program.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the nonprofit has donated more than $2 million to people who are struggling to pay their rent or mortgage, and so far, it has paid off.
The nonprofit recently surveyed 600 households that received rent relief as part of its COVID-19 rental assistance program. Out of the 600, 149 replied, and all of them said they are still living in or around Summit County.
“It’s pretty amazing that that piece of this actually worked, that we are actually helping people stay a part of our workforce,” Executive Director Brianne Snow said. “So we’re very proud.”
Hurst said the money she received helped cover her rent for March, April, January and February. She said she’s thankful to be able to stay because she loves the Summit County community.
“People are unbelievably nice (in Summit),” she said. “The decency and respect for me is a lot higher compared to other places I lived.”
While all of the survey respondents remained in Summit County, other survey results showed that life hasn’t become any easier for the county’s workforce during the pandemic.
Of the households that responded, 48% said they have a “significant need” in paying for their rent, mortgage, car or even food. Only 7% of the respondents said they were stable and able to afford basic needs without assistance.
The nonprofit also collected data regarding the stress level of survey respondents. More than 50% said they go between feeling mentally stable and feeling like they need more support. Of the respondents, 20% said they are struggling with their mental health.
Hurst said the nonprofit checked in on her mental health when she applied for the funding.
“It’s not just about the rental assistance,” she said. “It’s also about how you care for other people, as well.”
The survey also showed that most of the people — 81% — still need assistance when it comes to affording their rent.
For Snow, the statistics demonstrate that there is still significant need for the nonprofit’s services. For that reason, the center is continuing to offer rent relief for February and March. The ultimate goal is to keep the local workforce in Summit County.
“We are largely reliant upon tourism, and there’s not a lot of economic diversity up here,” Snow said. “So we really have to just be aware that there’s not a lot of options for our working families and our workforce in general. There’s not really a different industry that they can switch over to. They will have to leave our community.”
People can apply for the rental assistance by visiting SummitFIRC.org. Those who don’t have access to the internet can call 970-262-3888 to speak with a staff member who will help them apply.
By the end of January, the nonprofit had helped 1,747 households, providing assistance for 2,156 months of rent or mortgage. In total, the nonprofit has given $2,028,475 to individuals.
The funding for the program largely has come from town and county governments. In the second round of the program, which took place in December and January, the town of Breckenridge gave $500,000, the county gave $250,000 and the town of Silverthorne gave $150,000, Snow said.
The nonprofit also used surplus funds left over from $250,000 the town of Frisco donated at the beginning of the pandemic. The nonprofit has spent all of the money from the local municipalities and is now funding the rental assistance program through a grant from the Department of Local Affairs worth $250,000.
Some of the funding for the program also comes from donations and fundraising for the resource center, Snow said.
“We have been really busy just with our head down and doing the work that needs to be done,” she said. “Now that we’re 11 months in and taking a breather, we’re just recognizing how much the community came through in such an amazing way.”
People who are struggling with finances because of the pandemic can apply for rent and mortgage assistance at SummitFIRC.org or by calling 970-262-3888.
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