Chaffee County Community Foundation is using its Emergency Response Fund to help people in Chaffee County who have been affected by COVID-19.

The fund was originally created after the Decker Fire, but Executive Director Joseph Teipel said there wasn’t a large need then. With all the ways COVID-19 is impacting people, there is now a big need for the fund.

While the fundraising and application process is set to launch officially today, the foundation has already raised more than $100,000 in the last five days, Teipel said.

He said the city of Salida donated a matching pledge of $25,000 and Salida School District donated $20,000 in matching funds. The remainder has been raised from private donations and donations from local banks.

Based on what he’s heard, Teipel said he anticipated the town of Buena Vista to follow suit at its Monday meeting and donate $25,000.

Teipel called the response so far “incredible,” adding that they hope the fund reaches $150,000. “If people aren’t feeling the pinch right now, they want to help others who are,” Teipel said.

The money will be given to Chaffee County residents, families and nonprofit groups that can demonstrate a need related to COVID-19, such as loss of a job or having shifts cut at work.

To apply for assistance, people must first contact the Department of Human Services at 719-530-2500. Teipel said the department will do an initial screening and see if applicants are first eligible for state or federal assistance. If they don’t qualify for state or federal help, the department will refer them to the community foundation for help.

“We want to make sure these local dollars are going to folks who can’t find help elsewhere,” Teipel said, adding that going through Human Services will make the process more streamlined and reduce duplicate applications.

The foundation’s application criteria is threefold. In addition to being impacted by COVID-19, applicants need to be a Chaffee County resident, be unable to find assistance through the Department of Human Services and have a household income below 120 percent of area median income.

People who would like to donate to the Emergency Response Fund can do so through a couple of ways. They can mail a check with “Emergency Response Fund” in the memo line to the foundation at P.O. Box 492, Buena Vista, CO 81211. Or they can visit ChaffeeCommunity.org and click on the donate button.

“The response of the community to this emergency resource fund has been incredibly hopeful,” Teipel said.

From our sister paper The Mountain Mail at www.themountainmail.com

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