John Kinney

In a short video available on Youtube, John Kinney, director of the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport, explains various changes at the air-transport facility designed to protect to the health and safety of guests and employees.

Aspen airport stands ready for summer travel uptick

The Aspen-Pitkin County Airport said in a Thursday news release that it has taken “extraordinary measures” to protect the health and safety of its guests and employees as it prepares for an uptick in travelers as the community gradually reopens.

In a short video, Airport Director John Kinney explained the changes that travelers will notice when they move through the terminal. The video is accessible through this link: youtube.com/watch?v=5-N4sHu7Chg&feature=youtu.be.

One change inspired by COVID-19 will be the opportunity for travelers to virtually speak face-to-face with the airport’s guest services staff. This feature allows guest services to help customers wherever they are in the world via an online link accessible via aspenairport.com.

Further protective measures at the airport could be undertaken in the future as best practices for airports emerge that are found to be effective, the release says. For now, the more noticeable changes in and around the terminal include:

• Arriving travelers will find the ticketing area signed, marked and cordoned for social distancing.

• Markings on the floor indicate where to stand to maintain 6 feet between people waiting in line.

• Self check-in stations and ATMs are equipped with disposable finger guards and hand sanitizer.

• Lines into the Transportation Safety Administration checkpoint will be managed to maintain adequate distance between customers; plastic shields have been erected between TSA personnel who are checking passports, tickets and identification.

• A significant amount of seating has been removed inside the secure boarding area and the food court area so that waiting passengers can maintain a safer distance from each other.

• Airport restrooms have been retrofitted with plastic dividers between hand-washing basins.

• In the baggage claim area, handlers will load bags onto baggage belts at least 6 feet apart, making it easier for travelers to claim their luggage and maintain a social distance.

The airport will offer arriving visitors printed material relaying the most current information available about what is expected in the community regarding the use of face masks, staying home if sick and other topics. The airport also is offering free masks to arriving visitors who may need one, according to the release.

Surfaces throughout the terminal will be wiped down with disinfectant on a regular basis, the release adds.

Pitkin emergency assistance reserved for the most in need

In the two months since the COVID-19 community shutdown began, nearly 3,000 individuals and 500 children under 18 have received emergency funding from Pitkin County’s COVID Relief Program, a county news release says.

Now that the community is gradually reopening — and many are resuming either full or part-time employment — funding will focus on those who continue to be unable to work or collect unemployment, as well as those who remain truly in need of emergency relief, the release states.

“We are gratified that we were able to assist so many people in our community who suddenly lost their jobs but we’re seeing a gradual turnaround now,” said Nan Sundeen, the county’s director of human services, in a prepared statement.

“Many people are either getting back to work or have successfully applied for and received state unemployment and other benefits. We need to reserve the funding we have left for the hardest-hit individuals and families,” Sundeen said. So far, nearly $2.3 million in the county’s emergency relief fund has been distributed locally, according to the release. The money has helped local families and individuals pay for food, transportation, shelter, utilities and household supplies.

In recent weeks, however, many individuals and families have begun receiving federal stimulus checks, state unemployment benefits, Low Income Energy Assistance (LEAP) and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP).

“Even though we understand that many are still not earning what they were before the shutdown, the state and federal assistance programs are designed to help them get by. Many who have begun receiving other assistance are no longer eligible for our local emergency relief funds,” Sundeen said.

Going forward, applying for Pitkin County economic assistance will revert back to the human services department’s case-management system. This system was designed to assist applicants back to self-sufficiency by helping them navigate barriers to economic sustainability over the long haul, the release states.

In order to be considered eligible for assistance, the following criteria must be met:

• Residences of applicants must be within the borders of Pitkin County.

• Applicants must have been negatively impacted by COVID-19 and working prior to March 14.

• Applicants must have income and/or resources that are less than their allowable monthly expenses.

All income will be verified using electronic databases. Applicants may be required to provide documents, including bank statements, lease agreements, mortgage statements and/or employment verification letters.

Economic assistance applications are available at pitkincounty.com/economicservices. Applications need to be dropped off at (or mailed to): 0405 Castle Creek Road, Aspen, CO 81611. More information is available by calling 970-920-5244.