By Deborah Swearingen
Community Foundation Boulder County is preparing to distribute $28.5 million of the money collected in the Boulder County Wildfire Fund, with up to $20 million earmarked specifically for Marshall fire rebuilding efforts.
However, though talks are ongoing, the Community Foundation has yet to determine what local organization will help it distribute the money. Because of this, it is not yet certain how people will go about applying for financial support when the time comes, though officials said they are hopeful to have that information soon.
“Fundamentally, as an organization, we want to make this as easy and as streamlined as possible for members of our community. That’s been our goal since day one,” director Tatiana Hernandez said. “The unfortunate reality is that disaster infrastructure does not exist in communities. It has to be set up after every single event.”
As of Monday, about $38.3 million in total had been donated by more than 76,000 donors.
A little more than $8 million of that already has been dispersed, including some $5.5 million in direct financial assistance to households that were damaged or destroyed. This included renters and homeowners and people who are citizens as well as those who are undocumented.
The $20 million will be specifically for those rebuilding homes in the community, Hernandez said in response to a question during a Monday evening town hall about whether there would be stipulations for the funds such as whether or not a family intends to rebuild a home in Boulder County.
One Boulder County resident in attendance at the inperson event on Monday said it felt particularly cruel to require this, particularly given that the donations were intended to help the most vulnerable.
“There are residents that are so dramatically underinsured that they will not have a chance of rebuilding their homes,” the resident said. “There are residents that are seniors that in the time permitted will not have a chance of rebuilding their homes. There are people that will never be able to afford to live in Superior or Louisville again because of the rising costs of homes.”
Those in attendance, both in person and online, were asked to take a survey, and the foundation hoped it would provide some insight into the number of people who intend to rebuild.
So far, Hernandez said the majority of people she’s heard from intend to rebuild and stay in the community.
However, she did acknowledge the lack of data currently available. For example, while the number of homes affected in the Dec. 30 Marshall fire is known, it’s still unclear how many people were impacted.
The fire is now the most destructive in state history, burning some 1,000 homes and causing hundreds of millions of dollars in damages.
Another person noted that there’s been some concern about money being spent toward efforts that do not directly impact the cost to rebuild. How can administrative costs be kept to a minimum?
The Community Foundation earns a 2% administrative fee on all incoming gifts to help cover the costs of operating the fund.
Aside from the $20 million for rebuilding efforts, an advisory committee made of community members, former Louisville and Superior officials and more has allocated the remaining $8.5 million for a variety of causes, including debris removal, mental health support, smoke and ash remediation and other unmet basic needs.
Hernandez also acknowledged the sense of urgency that many feel, while noting the Community Foundation has worked fast to distribute the initial $8 million with plans for the remainder to be spread out over an estimated 18- to 24-month timeline.
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