The need for relief funds in the wake of the Gold King Mine spill that closed the Animas River has been increasing recently.
“We just got a big run of applicants in the last couple of weeks,” said Tim Walsworth, executive director of the Business Improvement District.
He is unable to say exactly why interest has picked up, but it could be it took awhile for the river-rafting industry to understand the fund was there to help them, he said.
So far, the Community Emergency Relief Fund has distributed more than $30,000 to 65 local workers, according to the BID, which is managing the funds.
After the Animas River was polluted by heavy metals in early August it ended the season for about 200 rafting company employees.
“It effectively ended the season four to six weeks early. ... That’s four to six weeks worth of paychecks,” Walsworth said.
Those who apply for assistance receive gift cards to help buy groceries and cover other expenses.
The fund can supply one-time assistance amount based on the hours the employee would have worked.
For example, those who worked 40 hours a week can receive up to $500 in gift cards.
Right now, the fund has about $15,000 in assistance to give away, Walsworth said.
“The need is going to outweigh the available funding,” he said. “And we want to make sure the CERF is also funded in advance of any future emergency. Donations to the CERF through the Community Foundation are tax deductible.”
Checks should be made payable to “Community Foundation-Community Emergency Relief Fund” and mailed to the Foundation at P.O. Box 1673, Durango, CO. 81302. Deposits may also be made directly at Bank of the San Juans, and credit card donations made by the Community Foundation website, www.swcommunityfoundation.org.
For more information, contact the Business Improvement District at 375-5068, or the Community Foundation Serving Southwest Colorado at 375-5807.
Those who need assistance may apply online at www.downtowndurango.org or www.swcommunityfoundation.org.