Delayed food benefits in Mesa County part of a spike in demand across Colorado

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Skyberg calls it a perfect storm. Across states, including Mesa County, more people are applying for food benefits. At the same time, offices like Skyberg that handle these applications at the county level are facing staff shortages. A tight labor market is impacting these county offices much like it is impacting other businesses struggling to recruit and hire.

Current staff are working overtime, Skyberg said, but it can take six months to fully train someone to handle the high volume of applications.

“We recognize that these benefits are so important to individuals and families that we are onboarding and training our staff as quickly as possible,” she added.

Mesa County may be able to get help from staff in another Colorado county to reduce its application backlog, but Skyberg said most counties are in a similar situation, with new applications As such, Mesa County is working with local food banks to help applicants obtain the food they need while their applications are being processed. increase.

The Hilltop Family Resource Center also has Mesa County food service brochures.

Statewide, 24% more people are applying for and getting SNAP benefits compared to pre-pandemic.

According to those working with SNAP beneficiaries, there are several reasons for the increased demand. In an economy where everything is more expensive, it’s no surprise that more Coloradoans look for extra money to put food on the table. Center Clymer said.

She believes that people who were previously eligible for benefits but didn’t ask for them have become accustomed to the idea of ​​asking for help.

“During the pandemic, the lives of many families changed and people wanted to be helpful within their communities. said Clymer.

Applying for benefits has also become more attractive. During the pandemic, the federal government increased the amount of money people can earn each month from SNAP. says.

“We have a lot of households that would normally only qualify for the bare minimum, which has historically been in the $20/month range, but because we are in this public space, the SNAP benefits You can get just over $200 a month in gold, it’s a health emergency,” Antonucci said.

The exact size of each applicant’s payment will depend on many factors, and the increased benefits will end when the federal government determines the pandemic health emergency is over. When the federal government re-evaluates the situation, it could happen as soon as January, or at three-month intervals thereafter, Antonucci said.

Weld County saw the largest increase in filings, up about 48% from 2019, according to the state. That number has risen sharply in the past six months, Antonucci said, as inflation spiraled out of control nationwide.

SNAP is just one example of the growing demand for food aid in Colorado. This is important for the community as a whole.

Colorado-based grocery chain Natural Grocers is opening a new store with a gift card promotion for the first 150 people in line. At its recent store opening in Brighton, north of Denver, there was a line forming around the building, said Katie Macarelli, public relations manager at Natural Grocers. She believes it’s a sign of the times.

“People were there for gift cards and discounts, and that’s new to us,” she said.

Enabling people to help pay for groceries can benefit entire communities, said Andy Garnand of Weld County Human Services. She said SNAP and other benefits they offer are a source of economic stimulus.

“The money we issue to eligible households goes to the local economy and has a big impact,” Garnand said.

At Natural Grocers in Grand Junction, assistant store manager Deb Watters said he wasn’t sure if more people were paying for SNAP rewards because the checkout process was discrete.

“I feel the pain of people trying to get help, but for some reason there was a delay,” Watters said. It should be no different from shopping with the payment of

Curious about anything in the Centennial State? Ask us via Colorado Wonders. try to find the answer.

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