Demand for Pueblo County's primary welfare program climbed by one-fifth in the last half of 2008, and officials say the reason is the worsening economy and new eligibility rules.
The county Department of Social Services says its caseload for the Temporary Aid to Needy Families program rose 22 percent.
The number of residents using food stamps rose 9 percent while the Medicaid caseload rose 2 percent in the same period.
County Social Services Director Jose Mondragon says the agency is keeping up with the rising demand, but he says a prolonged economic downturn of two years or so could put a severe strain on the system.
Pueblo is the state's 10th-largest county with about 156,000 residents.