Social Services dollars awarded next week

Community groups form work and life skills coalition for possible youth program

By the numbers

• $699,000: The amount Moffat County Social Services has to spend before June 30, 2009.

• $805,950: The total amount of funding requested by 13 local groups.

• $171,250: The largest request, made by the newly formed Moffat County Work and Life Skills Program Coalition.

• $3,034: The smallest request, made by the Yampa Valley Crisis Pregnancy Center.

— Since announcing its plans to grant Colorado Works funds to community organizations, Moffat County Social Services has taken 13 applications totaling $805,950.

Because the agency has as much as $699,000 to grant, not every project can receive funding.

Social Services Director Marie Peer said her department is making calls to applicants now to verify information and ask questions, but the Moffat County Commission will make all funding decisions at its Oct. 28 meeting.

She added she is "astounded" at the number and quality of applications.

"I didn't expect that many," Peer said. "People really thought about this and became creative with how they would spend the money."

The local Social Services office has money to go around this year because the state Legislature put new limits on how much money local offices could rollover from year to year.

Colorado Works is the state's welfare program, and its funds - both federal and state - can be spent only in the following four ways: assist needy families so children can be cared for in their own homes; reduce dependency of needy parents by promoting job preparation, work and marriage; prevent out-of-wedlock pregnancies; and/or encourage the formation and maintenance of two-parent families.

Moffat County's office must spend the $699,000 by June 30, 2009, or lose it.

Since Colorado passed welfare reform in 1997, Moffat County Social Services has saved up nearly $1 million, however roughly $100,000 of that came in the past few weeks. The state's Social Services savings account had money left over, Peer said, and each county was given a share of unspent funds when the fiscal year ended Sept. 31.

Peer added the commission could go deeper into its Colorado Works funds than $699,000 if it wants without affecting services this year or in 2009.

However, the money will not be available after this go-around, she said.

"It took us 10 years to build up those reserves," Peer said. "With the funding laws changed and without having a way to save money, this won't happen again."

Among the 13 applicants are the Moffat County School District, Colorado Northwestern Community College and the newly formed Moffat County Work and Life Skills Program Coalition, which also includes both educational institutions.

The Colorado Workforce Center, Craig Chamber of Commerce and Anson Excavation & Pipe also are part of the coalition.

The Work and Life Skills Program - which was spearheaded by the Craig/Moffat Economic Development Partnership - is an extra-curricular, after-school program for eighth- through 12th-graders.

It is designed to help those students "develop decision-making skills, improve resistance, responsibility and restraint" and provide "timely, useful information about the work world and their future career choices," according to the program's funding application.

There also would be a focus on reducing out-of-wedlock pregnancies through sex education and community involvement sponsored by the program.

Students who complete the program would be rewarded with a personal laptop computer.

The coalition submitted the most expensive request at $171,250. However, the application states that number could be reduced or expanded depending on funding availability.

School District Superintendent Pete Bergmann said the coalition is a good way for schools to partner with the community and strengthen programs already offered for students.

Bergmann pointed to the district's Alternative Cooperative Education class, business electives, economics classes, college seminars and other units within classes - such as mass-production and business bookkeeping in Woods II - as examples of work and life skills programs.

"Hopefully, we're embedding many of these lessons and values in everything we do," Bergmann said.

He added he is aware that some in the community are not satisfied with the level of education seen in some students.

"This grant gives us an opportunity to expand our funding and community support for student programs," Bergmann said.

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