72 percent of Routt County residents leave federal food assistance on table
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — A large majority of Routt County residents who are eligible for federally funded food assistance programs in Routt County are not taking advantage of them, according to local officials.
“It’s hard to know what it means,” said Routt County Human Services Director Kelly Keith. “We definitely want to reach out to everybody who wants to enroll in the program, so that they have access if they are interested.”
In Routt County, only 28 percent of people who are eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — or SNAP — are enrolled in the program, according to a report released last month by Hunger Free Colorado, a statewide nonprofit organization launched in 2009.
The report showed only 949 out of the 2,382 people in Routt County who are eligible for the program are enrolled in SNAP, as compared to the statewide average of 58 percent and the national average of 75 percent.
Keith said the reasons people have for not applying vary person to person and town to town.
“It is hard to know an individual’s reasoning,” Keith said. “Some reasons that we have heard is that the amount is not worth the effort, or that people are not comfortable receiving government assistance. Seasonal workers also may not think it is worth applying for the short time they are here.”
However, Keith encourages people to apply for any benefits they can get, no matter the amount, if they qualify.
“Any amount can help ease the financial strain,” she said.
SNAP, formerly known as the “food stamp” program, is 100 percent federally funded. In Routt County, the application and enrollment process is overseen by Routt County Human Services but funds are not administered by the local office.
“The county does not keep any of this money, or anything like that,” Keith said. “It comes from the federal government, and anyone who qualifies should take advantage of the money if they want to.”
The program is open to people whose income is 130 percent of the federal poverty level or 200 percent for an elderly person or someone who has a disability. To qualify for SNAP, an individual can earn $1,307 dollars a month, a family of two can earn $1,760, a family of three can earn $2,213 or a family of four can earn $2,665.
Information about available assistance programs can be found at Colorado PEAK.
“It is considered the supplemental nutrition program, so the idea is that SNAP isn’t going to meet every single need,” Keith said. “Some people are going to qualify for $16 a month, and the average benefit is $125 monthly. Most people know it’s going to cost a little bit more than that to fully feed a family, so it’s just to supplement.”
She said her department is attempting to reach out to people in the community who may not know if they are eligible.
Area residents can apply for the program at the Health and Human Services office, 135 Sixth St. in Steamboat Springs, and at LiftUp of Routt County food bank locations at 227 Dodge Ave. in Hayden and 118 S. Walnut Ave., Unit B, in Oak Creek.
In Oak Creek, offices are open from 9:30 a.m. to noon and 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. on the first and third Tuesdays of the month, and in Hayden, offices are open during the same hours but on the first and third Wednesdays of the month.
Keith said Steamboat’s low participation rates in SNAP are similar to other ski towns, where seasonal work tends to impact the numbers. She added that living status, citizenship and student status could also keep people from enrolling in the program.
To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.
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