As Idaho reopens, local workers still face challenges

Unemployment claims remain higher than normal


by Gretel Kauffman, Idaho Mountain Express


An estimated 90 percent of Idaho businesses were allowed to reopen May 1, according to Gov. Brad Little, with another 5 percent getting the green light this past weekend.


On Saturday, restaurants, gyms and salons got back to business, the second step in Little’s staged reopening of the state’s economy. The first stage, which kicked off at the start of the month, let churches, retail stores, and child-care centers open to the public.


But while most businesses are now permitted t o open their doors again, albeit some with limited operations, workers in the Wood River Valley and across Idaho are still feeling the economic effects of the pandemic—and some may continue to feel that impact for months to come...


... Some nonprofits and charitable organizations in the Wood River Valley have begun to brace themselves for a long-term impact on the local economy. Since its formation in March, the volunteer-run Blaine County Charitable Fund has handed out nearly 90 grants to households in the Wood River Valley, according to co-founder Mary Fauth. The grants, which average about $1,200 per household, have been used to cover a variety of living expenses, including utilities, rent and car or insurance payments.


“The response was pretty fast and furious for the first five weeks of granting,” Fauth said, noting that they reached an average of 25-35 applications per week. Most applicants lived in Ketchum or Hailey, Fauth said, with many working in the construction, housekeeping or service industries.


The organization has seen a “small dip” in applications in recent weeks as some Blaine County residents return to work, she said. But the group has also seen a shift in who is applying for assistance and why.


“Some people are able to go right back to work and pick jobs up where they left off,” Fauth said. “Others are finding that they weren’t able to get the unemployment benefits that they thought or the stimulus money or grants, or the small business assistance, or it wasn’t enough to get them through ramping up their business again.”


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