State and local
economy plays role in emergency allocation for food, shelter, utilities
March 19, 2008
LAPEER COUNTY — The feds have taken notice of Michigan's economic plight—more specifically Lapeer County's.
A national board chaired by the Federal Emergency Management Agency awarded Lapeer County $83,649 under the Emergency Food and Shelter State Set Aside Program, a 17.3 percent increase from last year's allocation.
The national board sets rates based on unemployment levels and the number of people living at or below the poverty level, says Pam Nelson, senior association for the United Way of Genesee County.
"This year with Michigan having such a rough time, we received a better increase than some of the other communities in the country," Nelson says.
Lapeer County's increase exceeds that of the more populous Genesee County, Nelson adds, though Genesee County's allocation is consistently greater than Lapeer County's.
"It was a bit surprising, the Genesee County increase was 14.68 percent, which translates to an additional $51,617," Nelson says. "But last year Genesee County received $142,603 because it's more populated and because of the automotive industry situation, more economically devastated."
Still, the $83,649 on its way to Lapeer County is badly needed, says Michelle Steiner, executive director of Lapeer County United Way.
"We don't have quantitative data but the calls we're receiving have increased," Steiner says. "The tough times we are all experiencing are tougher on those living paycheck to paycheck and then something unexpected occurs. The money has to come from somewhere. Some people are really having a hard time."
Currently, however, agencies offering assistance are low on funds themselves, Steiner says.
"Until the money comes through there is really very little money available for utility and rent assistance right now," Steiner says. "The agencies in town gets sums of money from different sources and use them up as they come through. Right now very few agencies have funds."
Fifty percent of Lapeer County's FEMA funds will be used toward food assistance, 30 percent will go to those who need help with utility payments and 20 percent will benefit those who need mortgage or rent assistance. Steiner says they hope the FEMA funds will be available locally by the end of April or the first part of May.
In the meantime, those who need assistance should call the Lapeer County United Way's First Call For Help line at 810-667-3114. From there, callers will be referred to the local agency that can best serve their needs.
Those who have open cases with the Department of Human Services should notify their caseworker, Steiner says, who will make the proper referrals.