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Emergency funding group feels pinch from wildfire victims

Requests for assistance have increased 50 percent

The Community Emergency Assistance Coalition, which works to prevent homelessness by providing one-time emergency assistance to individuals and families who face near-term financial crisis, is experiencing increased demand for services as a result of the 416 Fire.

The coalition, made up of several local nonprofit and government agencies that serve people in La Plata and San Juan counties, provides about $130,000 a year in emergency financial requests for things such as child care bills, insurance payments, past-due utilities and rent payments, said CEAC Program Coordinator Brigid Korce. Every year, the fund can fill only 65 percent of requests. In the past couple of weeks, requests for assistance have increased by 50 percent.

“We were looking at reduced funds prior to the fire, and now the demand for assistance has doubled,” Korce said in an email to The Durango Herald.

Unlike other groups, CEAC will help with mortgage payments, she said. This is because one of the missions of the group is to prevent homelessness.

Recently, wildfires have displaced people from their homes, and some are out of work. For example, the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad has furloughed 150 employees, and businesses like Purgatory Resort in the northern part of the county have been under mandatory evacuation.

The group mainly focuses on financial needs such as housing, so if somebody needs assistance with food for instance, those individuals are referred to other programs such as food stamps.

Applicants are vetted and meet one-on-one with a counselor. To make sure money is used appropriately, the coalition pays vendors directly. So, if a person requests help with rent, the coalition will pay the property owner directly.

To apply, people must fill out an application and set up an appointment. To set up an appointment, call 259-1086.

Businesses interested in joining the coalition can contact Housing Solutions for the Southwest, which is the umbrella organization for the coalition.

One-time donations can be made by donating to United Way of Southwest Colorado with the check made out to the Community Emergency Assistance Coalition.

Because of the increased demand, the coalition has added five appointments per week for applicants.

La Plata Electric Association customers can also round up on their bills to support the coalition. For more information, call 247-5786 or visit https://bit.ly/2sdNVNW.

rsimonovich@durangoherald.com

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