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Emergency aid being doled out for hourly workers affected by 416 Fire

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Wednesday, July 4, 2018 8:10 PM
Ska Brewing organized “Save the San Juans Saturday” in June to raise money statewide for the Community Emergency Relief Fund. The CERF aid will be given to those who lost their jobs and wages.

After weeks of fundraising, Community Emergency Relief Fund aid will reach hourly workers who lost their jobs or wages in the wake of the 416 Fire.

The Community Foundation Serving Southwest Colorado has received 147 applications from residents in need of financial assistance in recent weeks, and almost all of them have been approved, said Briggen Wrinkle, executive director of the foundation.

“We’re going to be able to provide some funds that will help keep our neighbors afloat,” she said.

The foundation started distributing gift cards to residents on Friday, and more aid will be given out this week. Wrinkle could not say how much aid would be distributed.

As of Monday, CERF had received about $220,600 in donations and is expecting an additional $83,000, she said. About 80 percent of the funding has come from local sources.

“To be solidly at $300,000 in less than a month is pretty darn incredible and generous,” Wrinkle said.

The Southwest Colorado community has taken on the foundation’s goal to raise $500,000, allowing the foundation to focus on managing the funds, she said.

There has been some spontaneous one-time fundraising efforts, such as when the Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering Barn Dance and Picnic organizers passed the hat and raised $380, Wrinkle said.

Other fundraisers are ongoing. For example, Music in the Mountains, a nonprofit, is donating a percentage of its sales to the CERF during its season.

Ska Brewing organized a statewide fundraising initiative called “Save the San Juans Saturday” in June to encourage breweries, restaurants and bars to donate funds to the CERF. Donations from that effort are still coming in, Wrinkle said.

“We will use every dollar that came in as wisely and impactfully as we can,” Wrinkle said.

Residents can apply for $250 to $500 from the CERF for rent or necessities, such as child care, groceries, gas and electricity bills. A committee reviews the applications before funding is granted.

Full-time hourly employees who lost their job or wages and were evacuated receive the highest priority for funding, she said. About half of the applicants have fit that description.

The foundation started accepting applications on June 18, and at first, the flow of applications was slow. But now interest in financial aid is starting to pick up and the foundation is receiving more applications every day, Wrinkle said.

The foundation expects to start accepting applications from those who were evacuated but did not lose their job or wages soon. Wrinkle could not say exactly when the criteria for applications will change.

To donate to the CERF, visit swcoda.org.

mshinn@durangoherald.com

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