Pennington County helped provide $1.3 million in economic assistance to residents in 2020

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Pennington County

Pennington County Health and Human Services helped provide $1.3 million for economic services in 2020.

The 1,448 requests included money for rent, utilities, deposits and mortgage assistance. The funding provided includes federal CARES Act funds along with contributions from the John T. Vucurevich Foundation and Black Hills Area Community Foundation.

Health and Human Services director Barry Tice said many who wouldn’t normally qualify for assistance did so in 2020. 

“We really could make substantial changes with the individuals who requested assistance based on the parameters at the end of 2020,” he said. “We had the ability to make decisions with foundation funds. It wasn’t millions, but it was enough to help the community during that time.”

The county’s economic assistance program is an emergency assistance program for residents to help with housing issues. Applicants granted funding have a lien placed against their property for the assistance received, but economic and medical assistance supervisor Brenda Dahlke said the lien doesn’t prevent them from receiving additional assistance. 

In 2019, the county received 823 requests for economic assistance that totaled $214,331. The county issued $181,397 for 789 requests in 2018.

Tice said the John T. Vucurevich Foundation, Black Hills Area Community Foundation and Elevate Rapid City funds were a major factor in keeping people current or close to current on rent and helping with utilities in 2020.

He said when the CARES Act funding came through, the department received 665 applications with 803 requests in a 60-day period from the end of October to Dec. 31. Those requests could be the same person requesting assistance with both rent and utilities.

Dahlke said the office held remote appointments for assistance during the pandemic, but it was a different level of need when the city closed for a few weeks.

“People got laid off, there was a reduction in workforces — it all led to more folks needing assistance,” she said. 

Dahlke said there wasn’t a  major change in medical assistance requests in 2020 and they only receive a few requests each year for assistance with medication and other emergent needs.

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