Community Helps Renters, Families During Coronavirus Pandemic

FIRC, a Summit County non-profit, has been helping families since the beginning of the pandemic but Snow said now, even some long-time residents can’t afford to stay.

“They’re just not getting the same hours they once did if they even have a job,” she said.

As the number of unemployment claims continue to rise across the state, furloughed employees in Colorado’s resort towns are finding the checks aren’t enough to stay.

“With this last shutdown, we’re hearing of a lot people just saying that they don’t necessarily want to do this anymore,” said Brianne Snow, the Executive Director of the Family and Intercultural Resource Center (FIRC). “There’s a lot of uncertainty of whether we’ll be able to open up for Christmas and if we will be able open up, will we stay open and people are just- they don’t have it in them they are really fatigued by this and so we are seeing people decide to pack up their families and leave.”

Since the closure of indoor dining, Snow said the calls to FIRC from people looking for help, have been pouring in. Thanks to donations from Summit County, surrounding towns, individuals and the Summit Foundation, FIRC was able to raise $1 million for rental assistance.

“We opened our application last Thursday, so it’s been a week today and we have had over almost 400 submissions. and right now, we have about a million dollars that we have raised to get back out into the community.”

She said many of the applications are from restaurant industry workers.

“For Summit County residents, it’s a really expensive place to live and we need our service industry workers up here. They are the basically the fabric of our community, they are what make our community a destination and it has been really, really difficult for them to make ends meet,” said Snow.

Savannah Wahaus, a server and bartender in Summit County, has had her hours reduced significantly and while she hasn’t moved out of town, she’s worried about paying rent.

“I work two days a week… that’s not enough,” she continued, “we’re doing to-go food and outdoor dining, but I usually work in the evening, so I don’t get a lot of outdoor seating because it’s cold.”

CBS4 first met Wahaus in November, while she was organizing a march for industry workers. While she and others want indoor dining to resume, the community support during the closure has helped.

“We are lucky here in Summit County, we are getting more support than other areas,” she said.

While Wahaus, qualifies for unemployment, she’s been having trouble filling out the online application- she assumes because the system is so overwhelmed.

“I’ve tried to contact unemployment every day since I’ve been laid off, and I finally got a call-back day on Dec. 26,” she said.

A call-back doesn’t necessarily mean she will get a check in time to pay rent. In the meantime, she’s hopeful FIRC will come through.

“I did apply for the rental assistance through FIRC so I am hoping that next month my rent will be covered… otherwise I probably won’t be able to pay rent.”

Snow has been working long hours to make sure the food pantry is stocked and that applications are processed. While Summit County officials are hopeful indoor dining can resume before Christmas, it’s likely many will still have to rely on support from the community.

“A lot of these families don’t necessarily qualify for any sort of benefits other than unemployment, and so we just all kind of of got to stick together and make sure that our neighbors, friends and family have what they need to survive. Housing and food obviously at the top of that list, and just lending out support and a hand can really go a long way with mental health as well,” said Snow.

If you would like to help, you can contact FIRC or the Summit Foundation.

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