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What’s Working: Colorado resources for the unemployed, those in need or those who’d like to support them

After another up-and-down week for unemployment benefits as new federal relief seemed final and then not, let’s focus on what’s important: People

Malaysia Lott, right, and her mom April, get some help selecting toys from Arapahoe County Sheriff's deputies Anthony Hale, left, and Charles Nickerson. Arapahoe County Human Services hosts the Partnering for the Holidays event at the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office on December 22, 2020 in Englewood, Colorado. (Kathryn Scott, Special to The Colorado Sun)
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It was another roller coaster week for unemployed America that saw hope as the week began after Congress agreed to extend jobless benefits into the new year but then came to a screeching halt. 

Those benefits went from an extra 16 weeks down to 11, but the agreement on the new federal relief bill granted other requests — specifically asked for by Colorado’s unemployed — and offered additional aid to small business owners, the restaurant industry and shuttered live-event venues.

But several days after Congress passed the new relief plan, President Donald Trump is uncertain if he’ll play ball. That may change by the time you read this, but one thing that’s certain, there are around 288,000 out-of-work Coloradans whose benefits stop Saturday. 

UPDATE, 12/27/2020: Trump signed the relief bill on Sunday evening.

The new relief plan, when passed, will take weeks to implement, and by then, thousands more will see their benefits exhausted. (Read this past column to see the potential timeline.)

As it is, in the latest numbers, more than 50,000 Coloradans filed a new claim for unemployment last week. They’re joining another 253,333 who are making a continued claim as of Dec. 12.

Related stories:

The big list of Colorado support

For those struggling to have a decent holiday, it’s time to focus on other resources that will help you get through the next several weeks. I compiled a list of resources for housing, utilities and other help partly based on The Sun’s past reporting. 

I also learned from a story by my colleague Thy Vo that the last three days of the year can bring in 10% of the nonprofit industry’s annual giving. Most of the organizations listed here accept donations. So, if you’re feeling extra generous this week, my go-to suggestion is to visit the nonprofit-run 211Colorado.org, which sorts charities by need or ZIP code. Pick the ones that make sense for your family and make an impact in your own community.

Quick links: Food // Housing // Housing disputes // Bills // Legal // Health care // Mental health // Business grants and loans // Job resources // Internet // Camaraderie // Everything else

Need food?

TODAY’S UNDERWRITER

Hunger Free Colorado has a “food finder” and a hotline at 1-855-855-4626 for Coloradans who can’t afford to eat. There’s also information on how to sign up for publicly-supported SNAP and WIC food programs. >> Details

Food Bank of the Rockies distributes 2 million pounds of food a week. A list of food pantries statewide is provided here

Related story: Record unemployment is leading to unprecedented food insecurity in Colorado

Housing help

Emergency Housing Assistance Program is a state funded program for renters and homeowners who need to get rents or mortgages paid during the pandemic. >> Details 

Property Owner Preservation (POP) program is a state-funded program for landlords to apply for rent on behalf of their tenants. There are monthly rent limits. >> Details

Colorado Housing Connects is also a state-funded resource for renters and landlords that provides free legal advice and assistance. >> Details

Resident Relief Foundation is funded by the Colorado Apartment Association. Coloradans with a good rental history who have lost a job due to COVID or another illness, or have seen  reduced incomes are encouraged to apply. There are no monthly rent limits. >> Details

Colorado Coalition for the Homeless provides assistance in finding permanent housing or keeping current housing. >> Details

Housing Now is Salvation Army’s housing program to assist those who face the loss of their housing or are already homeless. >> Details 

Landing Locals connects long-term renters to available housing at vacant vacation homes in Telluride >> Details

Hilltop Family Resource Center: Provides aid with housing and other needs to folks in Grand Junction and Montrose areas. >> Details

Rent assistance programs by region (Aurora, Broomfield, Denver, Thornton, Jefferson County and more) >> Details

Colorado Foreclosure Hotline (877-601-HOPE) offers resources and options for mortgage holders falling behind. >> Details

Colorado Apartment Association’s list of regional housing help. >> Details 

Related story: Colorado has money to help struggling renters, but some landlords won’t play ball

Housing disputes

Colorado and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have eviction moratoriums that end Dec. 31. If the new federal relief bill passes, the CDC moratorium would be extended to Jan. 31.

Eligibility: Tenants who cannot pay rent due to COVID-19-related job loss or reduced income must fill out this declaration and give it to their landlord. Landlords cannot kick out a renter and late fees cannot be charged through Dec. 31. Missed rent is due Jan. 1. >> Form and FAQ

Mobile home residents can file a dispute resolution. >> Details 

COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project — Provides free legal advice for struggling tenants, including legal representation. >> Details

9to5 Colorado: Also provides resources for housing issues, especially those living in mobile-home parks. >> Details

Colorado Legal Services provides free legal services to low-income Coloradans in matters ranging from housing, domestic relations, domestic violence and public benefits. >> Details

Related story: Unemployed and nearly homeless, jobless Coloradans whose benefits are on hold are crying for help

Help with bills

Energy Outreach Colorado is a $4.8 million program that provides financial help with utility bills during COVID. It’s a result of state bill HB-1412, passed in June. >> Details 1-866-432-8435 

Colorado LEAP is the Low-income Energy Assistance Program. It receives federal funding to pay for a portion of energy costs. >> Details

Need Help Paying Bills Colorado provides a plethora of links to more information about short-term assistance with utility bills, health care and housing. >> Details

Denver’s Temporary Rental and Utility Assistance program provides eligible Denver residents help with rent, mortgage and utilities. >> Details

Health

Need health insurance? Coloradans who lose their jobs have 60 days to apply to Connect for Health. Browse plans here: planfinder.connectforhealthco.com.

Need free health insurance? You may qualify for Health First Colorado, which is free or at a lower cost since it’s Medicaid (see income guidelines).

Colorado Legal Services provides legal assistance to low-income Coloradans. >> Details

Legal Aid Foundation of Colorado provides free civil legal services to low income residents. >> Details

Mental health support

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has programs and support groups to help those who need mental health support during the pandemic. Here’s a link to NAMI affiliates in Colorado.

Colorado Crisis Services connects folks to a mental health professional 24 hours a day year round at 1-844-493-8255 or text “TALK” to 38255. >> Details

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance offer free, virtual support groups for individuals and families. >> Find your local DBSA chapter

Alcoholics Anonymous has a list, updated daily, of meetings in the Denver metro. Your health provider may also be able to connect you to local groups, including ones supported by a medical professional. 

Related story: On Edge: Heightened anxiety, depression are testing Colorado’s already-frayed safety nets

Business grants, low-interest loans

Energize Colorado — Funded by federal and state money plus private donations, the program offers grants of up to $15,000 and loans up to $20,000. Round one awarded $6.7 million in grants to 500 businesses in the state with round two winners coming soon. While no longer taking applicants, bookmark this since it’s raising more funding for future awards. >> Details

Paycheck Protection Program — This popular loan program returns under the new federal relief bill. What’s new? Eligible businesses must have no more than 300 employees, show a 25% decline in revenues and can borrow up to 2.5 times their average monthly payroll (or 3.5 times for the food and hospitality industry). If 60% of the loan is used on payroll, it will be forgiven. More details will be available in January >> SBA PPP page

→ Don’t have a regular bank? Try a CDFI, or Community Development Financial Institution, which works with non-traditional businesses (read why startups with no experience, revenues or credit could still qualify for a loan). Organizations like Colorado Enterprise Fund and DreamSpring plan to offer PPP loans in 2021.

Job resources

Connecting Colorado should be familiar to anyone on unemployment since you must register with the state-run site to look for work. The jobs, too, are vetted by local workforce centers. On Dec. 24, there were approximately 73,974 open jobs. >> Details plus How to find a job during COVID-19 guide

Colorado Workforce Centers — These regional facilities offer access to computers, job training, career counselling and local employers who are hiring. >> Find your local Workforce Center

Denver’s Workforce Center offers “Now Hiring” video meetings with companies. >> Details

Pikes Peak Workforce Center recently added Upskill 2020, which is free and open to all Coloradans — and counts towards the state job training requirements. >> Details

COVID-19 Unsafe Worksite Report — To keep workers protected, the Colorado AFL-CIO began collecting reports from workers on the ground about unsafe working conditions during COVID. There were a lot. >> File a report

Get connected

T-Mobile is offering free internet to students to help with remote learning through its Project 10Million program. Service plus mobile hotspots are available through school districts and are free to students who qualify for the National School Lunch program. >> Details

Comcast offers Internet Essentials at $9.95 a month for speeds of up to 25 mbps. It’s waiving monthly fees for 60 days to eligible new customers. Its Xfinity Wi-Fi public hotspots remain free to access. >> Details

PCs for People sells refurbished computers and low-cost internet — and those who meet income requirements could get a PC for free. >> Details

Borrow a computer or internet device: Denver Workforce Services’ Laptop and Wifi Hotspot Loaner Program folks looking for a job check out a laptop and mobile hotspot device for free, like a book. Open to Denver residents. Sign up by emailing Workforce.Development@denvergov.org or call 720-913-1529.

Unemployment camaraderie

Colorado Unemployment/PEUC/PUA group — This private Facebook group has grown 40%  since I wrote about it earlier this month. It started as a group of strangers searching for answers to their unemployment holds and other issues. It’s developed into a community that has taken on an advocacy role by reaching out to local and national lawmakers. >> Join

Related story: Colorado’s unemployment system is so overwhelmed that strangers have resorted to helping each other

Help with everything and other things

2-1-1 Colorado — Call 2-1-1 or visit the non-profit-run site to get help with housing, food, utility bills and more within your region. >> 211colorado.org

Aunt Bertha’s Find Help network — A quick way to search for help with food, bills and other needs by typing in your zip code. >> findhelp.org

Resources for Veterans includes links to legal, food, housing and other support (list provided by Colorado Legal Services). >> Details

Gabriel House Project: Helps families with baby needs like diapers. >> Details

Catholic Charities: Offers charitable aid for housing, health care and a variety of needs. >> Details

Denver Urban Renewal Authority has the Emergency Home Repair program to fix issues that pose an immediate danger to the health and safety of low-income Denver homeowners. >> Details

Rebuilding Together provides an Emergency Repair Program for urgent home repairs. >> Details

Volunteers of America offers skilled handymen and women to help make housing safer for older adults. >> Details


I hope this has been helpful to my Colorado community. If you have other resources to suggest or questions about what else may be out there, please email me at tamara@coloradosun.com and I will add it to the list. 

Next week, I’ll be compiling a list of business resources and how to get started in the new year. Again, email me with your best tips. Have a safe end of the year everyone. And see you next year! ~tamara


What’s Working is a Colorado Sun column for readers navigating pandemic employment. Read the archive and don’t miss the next one. Get this free newsletter delivered to your inbox by signing up at coloradosun.com/getww.

MORE: Read stories on Colorado jobs and unemployment

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