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Lawyer Michael Avenatti arrested on a domestic violence charge. Also on the Thursday rundown: More testimony on Ohio's "anti-protest" bill; and we'll take you to the Dakotas to celebrate American Education Week.

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Report: Colorado Ski-Resort Counties Struggle to Assist Families

Colorado's more affluent, ski-resort counties are falling short in connecting eligible lower-income residents to food-assistance programs. (Pixabay)
Colorado's more affluent, ski-resort counties are falling short in connecting eligible lower-income residents to food-assistance programs. (Pixabay)
December 21, 2016

DENVER – Ski-resort counties with some of the highest income levels per capita in the state are falling short when it comes to connecting their eligible, lower-income residents to food assistance programs. That's according to new research by the group Hunger Free Colorado. Eagle, Pitkin, Routt and Summit counties have some of the lowest rates of SNAP enrollment statewide.

Joël McClurg, the data and research manager at Hunger Free Colorado, and the report's co-author, said local economies and struggling families are missing out.

"Enrolling a few thousand more folks in food stamps, that can bring millions of dollars in revenue and economic stimulus to the local communities," he explained. "But we're finding, on average, that these people who are eligible for the program, they're not enrolling in those benefits. There are barriers there."

The study found while the state's richest counties had lower enrollment rates, poorer counties delivered services to a higher percentage of people eligible for assistance. McClurg said word-of-mouth between neighbors who know how to navigate programs is likely missing in wealthier counties, and people may experience more stigma or shame accepting public benefits in more affluent communities.

McClurg noted that one in five families with children across the U.S. is eligible for SNAP benefits. And given the lack of affordable housing in ski areas, he said people working full-time at low wages have a hard time making ends meet. The report recommends counties invest more in outreach to help residents determine their eligibility and enroll. McClurg said even small adjustments, such as making websites easier to navigate, can make a difference.

"Explaining benefits, and how much folks may be eligible for, more clearly; and maybe increasing office hours as well," he said. "That would be an opportunity to get working families in the door in a way that is convenient to them."

He said getting working families the nutrition they need helps them reach their full potential and be more focused and engaged members of their community.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO