Higher demand on Moffat County Social Services

Agency has less funding to provide programs

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At its Tuesday meeting, the Moffat County Commission:

• Approved, 3-0, allowing the Moffat County Sheriff's Office to spend excess funds to remodel the jail library into a special offenders' cell. The library will be moved.

APH Construction submitted the only bid and will be awarded the project for $29,770.

• Approved, 3-0, an agreement to work with the Bureau of Land Management on developing Environmental Impact Statements for two proposed power line projects that may cross Moffat County.

June marked the 10th consecutive month Moffat County Social Services registered an increase in its food stamp caseload.

Social Services Director Marie Peer presented a caseload report to the Moffat County Commission at its meeting Tuesday.

The number of residents who receive food stamps in June crossed the 500-person mark for the first time Peer could remember.

Food stamps are generally seen as the first indicator social services has that an area's economy may be faltering, Peer has said, which means requests for other services generally increase along with food stamps.

The food stamp program caseload increased by 172 cases since August 2008, about a 50-percent increase.

A total of 517 residents collected food stamps in June, up from 498 the month before, 413 in January and 345 in August 2008.

August 2008 was the last month food stamp enrollment declined. It fell by five cases from July 2008.

Peer said Colorado Works, the state's welfare program, also has been hit during the national recession.

The June mark of 23 participating residents was the highest of any month in 2009 and 2008, and up from 22 the month before, 20 in January and 15 in August 2008.

"That's a significant increase in Colorado Works," Peer said. "That is just way higher than where it has been normally."

Colorado Works operates on a time-sensitive basis, as well, so a person can't stay on the program for an extended period. That means residents registered one month are generally not with the program for very long.

Welfare may not be the only government program in demand these days, Peer added.

"Our sense is we have a great number of people applying for and going to the different Medicaid programs," she said. "I think those programs will see a tremendous increase in people."

Three-month-old statistics may not show the complete picture, Peer said.

One of her employees in the Social Services front office told her that she gave out more applications for aid programs last month than in any of the months before.

At the same time demand for services is increasing, funding is drying up.

As part of Gov. Bill Ritter's spending cuts to balance the state budget - $320 million announced in August - the state will cut funding to some social services programs.

Aid to the needy disabled, a $200 a month stipend for those applying for Social Security but who have not received payment, will go away.

Peer said those residents on the program will have to do without, or apply for other services, such as food stamps and Colorado Works.

A pilot program to provide mental health services to youths in holding at Grand Mesa Youth Detention Center also will be eliminated.

Peer said the state didn't record any evidence that the program helped minors stay out of trouble once released.

However, she worries local authorities will have a tougher time reintegrating local children into the community without advance mental health services.

The state also will eliminate a planned 8-percent increase in funding to Child Welfare Services, which will effectively cut $8.4 million from child welfare block grants this year.

Peer said all travel and training expenses for her staff will be reduced and that all other expenditures will be "carefully monitored."

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