Requests for public assistance up in Pitkin County |

Requests for public assistance up in Pitkin County

ASPEN, Colo. (AP) – Demand for public assistance in wealthy Pitkin County is up this year as some Aspen-area residents seek help for the first time amid the Great Recession.

The county’s Emergency Assistance Fund has a $20,000 budget to help residents who need one-time help for expenses like groceries, rent or utility bills. As of Friday, $9,000 already had been requested and allocated, according to Mitzi Ledingham, the county’s deputy director of Health and Human Services.

The fund doled out $19,324 of its $20,000 budget to about 120 recipients in all of 2009.

Those using the fund include people who have received public aid before and those seeking it for the first time.

“With the recession, we’ve seen more and more of the latter – people who’ve never had to ask for anything before,” Ledingham said.

The fund was established last year with unspent revenues generated by the Healthy Community Fund tax, set to expire in 2012. The tax generates about $1.4 million annually to support health and human service programs, nonprofits and the assistance fund.

Health and Human Services Director Nan Sundeen said more money could be allocated to the Emergency Assistance Fund if its budget is depleted.

Requests for other forms of public assistance are also rising.

A March 9 report to county commissioners showed applications for some sort of public assistance in the county last year were up 62 percent from 2008, The Aspen Times reported. The caseload of applicants qualifying for help rose 52 percent to 328 cases. There were 88 food assistance cases in December, up 91 percent from the same month in 2008.

Foreclosure filings also have risen, though the county foreclosure rate is still low. There have been 22 filings so far in Pitkin County in 2010, compared with six at the same time last year, according to treasurer’s office records, the Aspen Daily News reported.

Pitkin County had 105 foreclosure filings in 2009. In 2008, there were 35 foreclosure filings.

Statewide, foreclosure filings rose 18 percent in 2009 from the year before, but foreclosure sales decreased by 4 percent. The state Department of Local Affairs said the trends indicate lenders, borrowers and housing counselors are having some success keeping people in their homes.

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