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PPP helped UDMO stay in black in 2020

Whitney asks Emmet County for $16,000 in support for next fiscal year

By Amy H. Peterson - Staff Writer | Dec 31, 2020

Tuesday morning, the Emmet County supervisors heard from Jamey Whitney, director of Upper Des Moines Opportunity. UDMO moved its Graettinger headquarters to a location across from the high school earlier this year, a move Whitney said has allowed its families better access.

“We were down as far as participants about 125 individuals over 46 homes, but that has increased over the holidays. We think it will increase over this busy season,” Whitney said.

Nationwide, eight million Americans moved into poverty between May and October of this year, according to a study by Columbia University. In that time, nearly 100,000 small businesses have permanently closed. UDMO is a local community action agency, one of hundreds across the country established as part of a “War on Poverty” initiated by President John F. Kennedy and signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson in 1967. According to the Government Accountability Office, social safety net programs improve health for low-income children over the short and long term.

Whitney said emergency services comprised the largest expense for UDMO. This includes LIHEAP, a federal program that pays winter heating bills for qualifying low income households, and payments of rent and other bills to prevent evictions leading to possible homelessness. Second is food programs. UDMO paid $206,779 in utility bills and $7,000 for food programs last year, Whitney said.

Special projects is another category that consumes outreach workers in each county, Whitney said. Back to school and holiday packages were among the special projects.

“We had a lot of people coming in, and we figured out a way with COVID-19 of how to serve them best. It was challenging for some clients. Social distancing made it complicated. We did applications virtually or over the phone or by email or other means to make it easier for them,” Whitney said.

Paycheck Protection Loans provided much-needed support to pay the Outreach workers and other staff in each county, Whitney said. Last year, the organization was in the red by $11,000. This year it is $26,000 in the black.

“I was able to submit a pandemic application for PPP loans and received $1.2 million to help offset expenses,” Whitney said.

Because the funds had to be used for specific expenses, Whitney said UDMO sent back some of the PPP funds because the organization must spend 100% of its money from other grant sources or risk reduced funding next year.

“Early on, all programs were considered essential – weatherization was one. Funds from PPP covered salaries for outreach and we savedd a total of $348,000 in salaries. We put money back into programs and used in different ways to provide services for families,” Whitney said.

It’s unknown how much need the upcoming winter months will bring. Whitney said there is an anticipated increase in cases nationally.

“I think everyone is fatigued and tired of the isolation, but we need to hang on as long as we can so we can get vaccinations out and people don’t have to continue to do this. I think by the end of 2021 we will be in better straits,” Whitney said.

PPP saved Emmet County $15,000 in salaries this year, between Deb Weir, who retired, and Jessica Gosch, who has taken over Weir’s responsibilities. Much of the $47,000 allocated from UDMO to Emmet County came from the federal Community Service Block Grant. The total to UDMO for its 17-county area was $440,00 to be used on county outreach.

“We have received this money for close to 50 years and must write for it every year,” Whitney said.

According to the U.S Dept of Human Services, the goal of the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) is the reduction of poverty, the revitalization of low-income communities and the empowerment of low-income families and individuals to become fully self-sufficient.

The Community Services Block Grant is designed to help low-income individuals and families: secure and retain meaningful employment; attain an adequate education; improve the use of available income, obtain adequate housing, obtain emergency assistance, including health and nutrition services; remove obstacles which block the achievement of self-sufficiency; and achieve greater participation in the affairs of the community.

According to the SAIPE (Small Area Income & Poverty Estimate) in 2019, Emmet County has a poverty rate of 11.4%.

One in five (21.6%) of Emmet County residents is a person over age 65. Whitney said another vital program of UDMO in Emmet County is the CHORE program. An elderly individual who meets income guidelines can receive up to $1,000 for snow removal, mowing, and necessary outdoor improvements to their home.

Whitney submitted a request for $16,776 in county funds for UDMO, the same as the request for last fiscal year.

In other business, the supervisors gave the oath of office to supervisors Todd Glasnapp, Lisa Hansen and Tim Schumacher, and to county auditor Amy M. Sathoff. Roxanne Budach had given the oath of office to Sheriff Mike Martens Monday.

The supervisors went into closed session. No action was expected or taken in the closed session.

The next meeting of the Emmet County board of supervisors is required to take place on the first business day after New Year’s Day in 2021, which is Monday, January 4.