Coaching residents through barriers | CraigDailyPress.com

Coaching residents through barriers

Commission OKs new social services position

Collin Smith

In other action

At its Nov. 13 meeting, the Moffat County Commission:

• Signed a contract with Enterprise Rent-A-Car to provide all vehicle rentals that county employees may need.

• Signed a certificate of eligibility to receive Conservation Trust Fund dollars from the state. The state reviews each county’s eligibility on an annual basis and found no qualms with Moffat County this year.

• Approved a new contract with the Bureau of Land Management for its use of the Moffat County Airport. The BLM will pay $300 per month to use the airport from May to October during the fire season.

— Marie Peer knows it can work.

At Tuesday’s Moffat County Commission meeting, Peer recalled a past experience she had counseling a single mother of two.

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Her story helped convince the Commission to approve a preliminary personnel request to hire a Social Services employment coach for residents participating in the Colorado Works program, the state’s welfare system.

Throughout two months, Peer and the woman reviewed skills, childcare options and hours she could work and be home for her family.

After exploring her options, which the woman might never have been fully aware of without counseling, she started a clerical job.

After some time, the woman worked her way up to a higher-paying position, remarried and came back to Social Services.

The woman and her husband wanted to become foster parents, to give something back, Peer said.

“That’s what we want to accomplish with this position,” Peer said. “We want to put people in the best position possible.”

The position will benefit those in the Colorado Works program, who are required to look for a job, by helping them work through barriers keeping them from getting back into the workforce, Peer said.

“We could help them with clothes and childcare and transportation,” Peer said. “Some of those barriers can be really intimidating for someone to just go out there and find a job and keep it.

“There are many things, if you don’t have the cash to do them, that can get in the way of being a contributing member of society.”

The new hire is planned to be a contract employee, meaning the position will not have set hours or certain benefits. A salary will be determined at a later date.

Colorado Works is a reward program – as opposed to an “entitlement” program – that offers support dollars and services if participants meet certain criteria, including actively pursuing employment.

“This will be somebody who’s right there, somebody they (program beneficiaries) can depend on, somebody that can help if something goes wrong,” Peer said.

Anything that encourages people to find work and stop receiving government assistance is a good thing, Commissioner Saed Tayyara said.

“These folks can be an asset to the community,” he said.

The new position will come out of the Colorado Works fund, a yearly allocation of federal, state and county dollars.

Money from that budget can be spent on any project that meets one of four federal guidelines: assistance for childcare, ending dependence on government programs, preventing out-of-wedlock pregnancies or encouraging two-parent families.

Commissioner Tom Gray said the guidelines were “good objectives” and that the employment coach position helped meet some of them.

Moffat County Social Services also has a reserve fund, currently worth about $381,000, which is built from unspent allocation dollars.

Moffat County generally spends about 75 percent of its Colorado Works allocation because of the success in its work program. Most participants find work and do not stay with the program for an extended time period.

Peer intends to start spending more money on bolstering current programs because of recent spending pressure. The new employment coach is part of that initiative.

She recently attended a meeting of Colorado Counties Inc. and sat in on its Health and Human Services sub-committee.

CCI representatives told the audience the state is looking at using reserve funds around Colorado, including Social Services funds, for other projects.

The group wants to make sure that Social Service agencies are covering community needs before the money is used for projects the money wasn’t intended to cover, Peer said.

County governments are required to spend a certain amount of their budgets to be eligible for state and federal allocation dollars, she added. CCI believes those allocations therefore already are paid for, and the state shouldn’t be allowed to take back money it has agreed to pay.

“We should be spending this money on things that Moffat County needs locally,” Peer said. “We need to do things that really make a difference, things that help keep people employed or anything else that fits the federal guidelines.”

Collin Smith can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 209, or cesmith@craigdailypress.com

In other action

At its Nov. 13 meeting, the Moffat County Commission:

• Signed a contract with Enterprise Rent-A-Car to provide all vehicle rentals that county employees may need.

• Signed a certificate of eligibility to receive Conservation Trust Fund dollars from the state. The state reviews each county’s eligibility on an annual basis and found no qualms with Moffat County this year.

• Approved a new contract with the Bureau of Land Management for its use of the Moffat County Airport. The BLM will pay $300 per month to use the airport from May to October during the fire season.