LOUISVILLE, Colorado — Nearly seven months after the Marshall Fire tore through suburban neighborhoods, Boulder County opened its "recovery navigator" program to distribute millions of donated dollars to survivors planning to rebuild.
The goal of the program is to streamline sometimes-onerous application processes for rebuilding grants and provide a "hand to hold" through the recovery process, Boulder County Assistant Recovery Manager Katie Arrington said.
"The amount of paperwork you as a resident have to fill out after a disaster is overwhelming," she said. "The plan is that you provide your forms and documentation with your recovery managers once -- and that’s the process, rather than having to do it multiple times with multiple agencies like we know so many residents have had to do."
People who lost homes can get social service referrals, guidance with recovery plans and -- critically -- access to $20 million from the Community Foundation of Boulder County earmarked to help them rebuild.
"You can apply and get committed dollars right away," Arrington said.
The program opening more than six months after the fire's devastation is later than some town leaders hoped.
"For those who are stuck rebuilding, they needed to know exactly how much cash they’re going to have and when," Superior Town Trustee Neal Shah said. "I think this has been a huge missing piece in terms of when this cash is going to get to people’s pockets."
Shah said he wanted to see the money distributed when cleanup began in April. He worries the 40 Superior homeowners who have applied or been approved for building permits, and thus are eligible for recovery funds, might have to wait weeks longer.
"These homeowners are extending themselves. They’ve had to put deposits down on rebuilding. They’ve had to put deposits down on all sorts of things," Shah said.
Arrington said similar programs in other disaster areas typically take a year to start up. Boulder originally hoped to have the navigator program online by June, she said.
"I know it’s been slow and I know eight months feels like a long time, but we’re really excited we cut four months off that year mark and have people seeing navigators this week," she said.
Compiling all the resources, hiring and raining navigators takes time, Arrington said. So far, Boulder has four full-time and one part-time navigator and plans to hire three to five more in the coming weeks.
But Arrington said she is expecting up to 500 calls this week, likely resulting in several days' delay in responses to residents who are looking for the funds.
Additional information can be found on Boulder County's website. Arrington said people should verify they have all the required documents before their appointments with recovery navigators.
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