Government Shutdown Leads To Unemployment Claims, Food Benefit Concern In El Paso County

Since the partial government shutdown began last month, almost a fifth of the unemployment claims filed in Colorado have been from federal workers.

Credit colorado Department of Labor and Employment

Data from the state Department of Labor and Employment shows that more than 2,300 federal workers have filed unemployment claims as of January 17th. Of those claims, four percent have been filed in El Paso County, two percent in Pueblo County and one percent in Fremont County. Jefferson County, on the west side of Denver, has the highest number of claims filed so far, with 22 percent of the state’s total.

According to the state, more than a third of the claims have come from Coloradans employed by the Department of the Interior. One-fifth are from the Department of Agriculture, and close to a sixth are federal contractors. Employees of the Department of the Treasury and the Department of Justice have also filed.

A map of Colorado showing the percentage of unemployment claims filed by federal workers in the midst of the partial government shutdown, as of January 17, 2019.
Credit Colorado Department of Labor and Employment
A map of Colorado showing the percentage of unemployment claims filed by federal workers in the midst of the partial government shutdown, as of January 17, 2019.

Earlier this week, El Paso County sought to reach more than 2,400 food stamp recipients who needed to complete “redetermination” documentation in order to continue receiving their benefits next month. Because of the partial government shutdown, benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP are being distributed earlier than normal. Despite the county’s effort, close to 60 percent (1,471 out of 2,400+) of those recipients have redetermination files that remain incomplete several days past the deadline. A representative from El Paso County said that’s nearly double the usual number -- in a typical month, about 35 percent of the redetermination files are not returned.

Credit Colorado Department of Labor and Employment

The county is encouraging families who did not submit their redetermination paperwork by the deadline to do so ASAP, and definitely before the close of business January 29. Redeterminations will be processed, and they will receive food assistance if funds are available, according to the county. New applications should also be submitted before close of business on January 29. Completed applications, including interviews, that are processed by then may be eligible for prorated amounts of assistance, to make up for missed benefits in January and February.

As the shutdown continues, the USDA is relying on a provision in the stopgap funding measure that expired on December 21, 2018, allowing the federal government to make certain payments within 30 days of that expiration. The move provides the $4.8 billion needed to cover February SNAP needs. In addition to extending funding for SNAP, the USDA also announced that funding for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children or WIC will also continue through February.

According to El Paso County, there is no information available about March food assistance. Households receiving Food Assistance are encouraged to stretch their food dollars as far as possible.

Community resources for those affected by the shutdown

  • Care and Share Food Bank is hosting an Emergency Mobile Food Pantry distribution outside of its Colorado Springs facility, located at 2605 Preamble Point, Friday (1/18) from 3-6 p.m. Families and individuals affected by the government shutdown are encouraged to attend. Ultimately, the event is for anyone who needs help. No identification is required. Everyone is welcome and will receive food. Distribution will be drive-thru style with volunteers and staff loading food directly into vehicles. Fresh produce and frozen foods, along with staple items, will be given out. 
  • Poor Richard's Restaurant is offering federal employees affected by the government shutdown a free meal. The restaurant says the offer is good for every week that shutdown continues. Furloughed government employees and their families will need to show their government ID at the register. Note: Poor Richard’s is an underwriter of 91.5 KRCC. 
  • My Neighbor's Cupboard, a food pantry in Penrose, is offering food assistance to anyone who provides their Federal ID.  
  • Happy Cats Haven in Colorado Springs is offering free cat food Jan. 8 - Jan 15, 11 a.m. to noon. 
  • Pikes Peak United Way is offering help to people who need it during the shutdown. Calll 211 for more information.

If your business or organization would like to be added to this list, please send an e-mail with details to [email protected].