CONGREGATION CONNECTIONS RESOURCES
Updated September 24, 2020
Congregation Connections links social services and faith groups, working to strengthen communities throughout Kent County by supporting ministry and outreach teams. We collaborate with over 200 congregations across 17 denominations, offering training and casework services. To learn more visit our website.
United Way 211: if anyone is need of services call 211 first. They are a central hub, tracking what programs and organizations have available during this time. You can also visit the United Way’s webpage for more information on COVID-19 updates, including how to get help and how to give help. You can view 211 flyers here: version 1 and version 2.
The Essential Needs Task Force of Kent County has been tracking needs and program updates across the county. We recommend your church subscribing to these updates that are filled with helpful information and local resources. You can subscribe to their email updates here.
Access Food Pantry Network: Visit our Pantry Network page and find a list of services and resources being offered through Pantry Resource Centers in Kent County. Details are available in English and Spanish.
Kent County Community Action TEFAP (The Emergency Food Assistance Program) distributions: See flyer for dates and locations for food distributions across the county.
SNAP Emergency Benefits August: Households receiving SNAP benefits in Michigan that are not currently receiving the maximum amount allowed per household size, will receive an additional amount to raise benefits to the maximum for September. September additional benefits will be loaded on Bridge Cards between the 20th – 30th.
Grab and Go Meal Sites: for a full list of Kent County meal sites see the United Way’s list.
Revive & Thrive Meal Delivery: Revive and Thrive & Kitchen Sage have teamed up to respond to the need to provide free, home delivered meals for the medically vulnerable residents in the Greater Grand Rapids area who are most at risk during the current pandemic. They are able to provide 12 weeks of service (at least 6 meals/week plus dessert) to the following people in the Greater Grand Rapids area who are residents of Kent County:
-People with acute or chronic health challenges that are high risk for COVID-19 who are low income and do have a caregiver or family member to provide consistent health meals. We do provide meals to a family member or caregiver in the home.
-People who have been diagnosed with cancer and who lack financial and family support to provide meals.
Please note at this time we are unable to accept people with serious food allergies or special dietary needs. For more information. please visit www.reviveandthriveproject.org. Contact Wendy@reviveandthriveproject.org or call 616-581-4103.
Farmers Market & Fresh Food: many of farmers markets, farm stands, fresh markets, and other resources for fresh food are open for the season, please share and support these farmers and markets as they continue to serve the community with fresh produce + food products while also continuing to support our local farms and local food system!
- Fulton Street Farmers Market: Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, 8am-2pm
- Rockford Farmers Market: Saturday, 8am-1pm
- Metro Health Farmers Market: Thursdays, 9am-2pm
- Cesar Chavez Farmers Market will be open on Friday, June 5, 3:30-7:00pm.
- The Southeast Farmers’ Market opens 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday July 11 at Martin Luther King Jr. Park, 900 Fuller SE, Grand Rapids 49506. The Market seeks to provide a wide variety of local produce in neighborhood. Vendors are primarily women of color, home growers, and residents of southeast Grand Rapids. In addition to providing access to healthy food, the market hosts meal preparation activities, workshops, and resources from community organizations. It welcomes Bridge Card, SNAP, Double Up Food Bucks, WIC and many other assistance and coupon programs. Joe Taylor Park, 1138 Bemis St. SE, will host the market 6 to 8 p.m. every other Thursday beginning July 16.
- Heartside Gleaning Initiative Distributions are back! Pass along this shareable flyer!
- When: Every Saturday, through October 17, 2:45 – 3:45 p.m.
- Where: LaGrave Church Parking Lot (107 La Grave Ave SE)
- North Kent Connect: Farm Stand available inside the Thrift Store Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Learn more here!
- The Other Way Ministries: Fresh Market Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday from 9 to 4, and the 1st and 3rd Saturday from 10 to 2. Learn more here.
- The Green Apple: Market open when the Pantry is open, Wednesday & Thursday 9am to 3pm. The Green Apple Website.
- UCOM: Market open during pantry hours, Tuesday/Wednesday 9-3, Thursday 2-7pm. People can order over the phone ahead of time or walk up and do an order at the door. UCOM’s website.
Double Up Food Bucks: can be used at participating farmers markets to double the amount of Michigan grown produce purchased using an EBT card. Please share these flyers (English version and Spanish version)!
Educate to Elevate: Our Kitchen Table has a new initiative, Educate to Elevate, which is primarily geared toward pregnant women, nursing mothers and mothers with low birth weight babies. However, all Mothers to be and Mothers/families wanting to educate themselves on healthy meal planning and preparation are welcome to join OKT’s cooking demonstration/nutrition education event. Check it out and share with your constituents.
La Lucha Fund
La Lucha Fund is a collaboration between Movimiento Cosecha, the Grand Rapids Area Mutual Aid Network, the Hispanic Center of Western Michigan, and LatinxGR. The fund is held at the Grand Rapids Community Foundation, and was created as a short-term, emergency response to COVID-19. La Lucha Fund is designed to provide financial resources directly to families in Kent County who are undocumented or mixed status and not eligible for unemployment, CARES Act relief, or other government support. Qualifcations and process for receiving support:
Live in Kent County
Be ineligible for government assistance, including unemployment, CARES Act relief, and other federal, state, or local government support
Complete an application, and speak with a La Lucha Fund representative to verify application information
YWCA & Safe Haven: Safe Haven and the YWCA are available to help survivors of domestic violence during this time. For emergency shelter, CDC health guidelines are in place to protect residents and staff. Help is also available to help survivors of domestic violence during this time. Help is also available for victims who are high-risk, immunocompromised, or have tested positive. Other services (safety planning, counseling, support groups, legal assistance & more) are available by video and phone. Please help spread the word and share this flyer widely.
HOUSING AND UTILITIES
You may call 2-1-1 or go to www.mi211.org for energy assistance information or to learn about agencies that can help you with your energy bill. In addition, you can apply for State Emergency Relief (SER) through MI Bridges or by contacting your local MDHHS office. Households who qualify for SER also qualify for assistance through the Michigan Energy Assistance Program (MEAP), which providers supplemental bill payment assistance and energy self-sufficiency services. The State of Michigan has implemented changes to allow for faster processing of emergency requests and to make access to assistance benefits easier. Click here for more information about energy assistance.
The Michigan Public Service Commission encourages any customer struggling with their energy bills due to the impacts of COVID-19 and in need of utility bill assistance to first contact their utility company to ask what kind of protections, funding, flexible payment options, or energy savings tools and resources are available.
Consumer’s Energy: We encourage all customers who need help paying their energy bill to call us at 1-800-477-5050 to discuss their options. Flyers for Consumer’s Energy Efficiency Programs: Home Energy Analysis and Helping Neighbors. Please share these flyers! If you are interested in receiving printed materials or would like someone to speak with your team regarding the programs, please connect with Erin Donnelly (email@example.com)
- From DTE: If you’re have trouble paying your bills due to reduced income or health impacts from COVID-19. please call us right away at 800-477-4747. We can personalize a payment plan for you that gives you more time to pay while protecting your energy services. For more information about options, visit their website.
Water Reconnection Order extended through 2020
- Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed Executive Order 2020-144, which extends protections for Michigan residents who have had water service shut off through December 31, 2020. Governor Whitmer signed a bipartisan supplemental bill, SB 690, into law. The new law includes $25 million for the Department of Health and Human Services to reimburse water utility providers for providing bill forgiveness for past due utility bills and fees incurred by residential water customers during the COVID-19 state of emergency. The legislation also provides a 25% rebate on total water bills for eligible customers while funding lasts.
CDC Eviction Moratorium
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a temporary eviction moratorium which is in effect through December 31, 2020. Here’s a few bullet points from the National Housing Law Project:
- It applies to all tenants who present a signed declaration to their landlords;
- The declaration requires the tenant to state that:
- (i) their income is less than $99,000, they did not have to pay income tax in 2019, or they received a stimulus check;
- (ii) they are unable to pay rent due to income loss or extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses;
- (iii) they would become homeless or need to double-up if evicted;
- (iv) they will still make partial payments (“using best efforts to make timely partial payments that are as close to the full payment as the individual’s circumstances may permit, taking into account other non-discretionary expenses”);
- It applies wherever there is not a more protective state moratorium in effect, i.e. it acts as a floor;
- It applies to evictions for nonpayment of rent;
- There are criminal penalties for violations.
- To access this protection, every adult listed on the lease needs to sign and give the landlord a declaration form. For more information, visit Michigan Legal Help.
Michigan Eviction Moratorium Ended July 15th
- MSHDA Eviction Diversion Program: Families that are in need of rental assistance can call 211 for referrals to resources. They can also consider if they qualify for the MSHDA Eviction Diversion Program by visiting their website to learn more. Please note that often these resources are limited, and may not be up and running right away. So while we are glad there are potential options out there, it is also entirely possible that families have not been able to access the resources needed and that is why they are seeking assistance from congregations. We encourage you to continue to work with our Congregation Connections team to come up with solutions together.
- Legal Aid of Western Michigan: If congregation members or neighbors are in need of legal assistance related to evictions and housing, they can apply for free legal assistance by visiting their website: https://lawestmi.org/. If there are people in your congregation who are interested in using their legal skills to serve they are also calling for volunteers on their website. They also have some helpful reference information that you can utilize on their website for legal assistance needed during COVID-19: https://lawestmi.org/covid-19/. It is important for everyone to be aware of their rights during this time.
Go! Bus Plus is a pilot program that provides Go! Bus riders an option of what service they want to use. Riders are able to choose from Go! Bus, GoLux, Lyft and Uber. Here is the best part . . . if you are an approved registrant you will receive $145 in free rides! Are you a currently eligible Go! Bus rider? If so, download Go! Bus Plus (search go!busplus in your app store) or go to gobusplus.com and register today! This program runs until December 31, 2020. If you have any questions, contact Laura at 616.323.2236.
Roll to the Polls! Creative Mobility Group will be offering free wheelchair accessible transportation to voters in Kent County for both the Primary and General Elections this year. Click here to learn more and request a ride!
Kent County Health Department Community COVID-19 Testing Sites: The Kent County Health Department is offering community testing for COVID-19 at a walk-thru and drive-thru sites. For more information visit their website: https://www.accesskent.com/Health/covid-19-testing.htm
Suspension of all Medicaid Closures: As a result of the federal emergency health declaration, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is suspending program coverage closures for all Medicaid programs beginning March 18, 2020 and through the month of April 2020 or until the first of the month following the termination of the Governor’s Declaration of a State of Emergency Order, whichever is later. Medicaid coverage will only be closed if the individual moves out of state, requests their benefits close, or they become deceased. You can find the bulletin with this update here.
Kent County Resources: View this flyer for information.
Disaster Distress Helpline: 1-800-985-5990- this 24/7 service is from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and provides crisis counseling for people going through both natural and human-caused disasters. It’s free, multi-lingual and confidential. You can also text TalkWithUs to 66746.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline: If you are feeling alone and struggling, you can also reach out to The Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741 or National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.
Salvation Army Emotional Support Hotline: Salvation Army has established a hotline call-in center to provide emotional and spiritual support. The hotline can be reached at 616-742-9199 and is open from 9am to 9pm seven days a week.
Stay Home, Stay Mindful Website: Governor Whitmer and Headspace launch this new website to offer free mental health resources. The website offers meditation and mindfulness content curated for Michiganders at no cost. Check it out here: https://www.headspace.com/mi
BE AWARE OF SCAMS & CYBERCRIME
Be aware of scams: There are reports of scams related to COVID-19 taking place across the state. Scams including asking for medicaid/medicare information, online scams selling bogus products and providing false information on tests and treatments, and a door to door scam where people are posing as the Red Cross offering testing. We have also heard of scams related to stimulus checks, with people falsely requesting banking or Paypal information. Click the links to learn more about those scams and how to report, and be mindful overall and share with those vulnerable in your community. More scams are surfacing every week, so be on the look out!
FraudSupport Program: Did you know that 2-1-1 in West Michigan partnered with the Cybercrime Support Network? Using the National Cybercrime Victim Resource Database, 211 makes sure that victims of cybercrime have the resources they need while guiding them through the process of reporting, recovering, and reinforcing their security. Please share this flyer with your neighbors.
BUSINESS, EMPLOYMENT, AND UNEMPLOYMENT ASSISTANCE
Futures for Frontlines Scholarship Program: This program provides frontline workers with tuition-free access to local community colleges to pursue an associate degree or a skills certificate. More information on the program can be found at: https://www.michigan.gov/frontliners/ Please help spread the word around this important scholarship program!
Unemployment Benefits Expanded: The State Unemployment Office will extend benefits to workers who are sick, quarantined or taking care of family members who are ill. First responders in the public health community who became ill or quarantined due to exposure are also eligible. Self-employed workers and independent contractors who don’t have access to unemployment insurance will now have access to benefits. Click here to fill out the application online or call 1-866-500-0017.
- Job Aids and Videos for Clients and Community Partners: You (and your clients) can find helpful job aids and how-to videos on our MI Bridges Community Partners Tools & Resources page. They include registering a new client account, applying for benefits, managing my case, and helping to find resources.
- Nonprofit Resources for Remote Work During the COVID-19 Outbreak: Here is some helpful information regarding working remotely. https://bit.ly/2QoArd5
Women’s Resource Center is open to helping anyone who need support as they look for work and try to connect with services. They are doing coaching, resume and interview prep over the phone or Zoom calls to keep people moving forward. Community members should call their offices (616) 458-5443 and leave a message.
Internet Access for low-income families who qualify:
- 2 months of free internet from Comcast
- 2 months of free internet from AT&T
- Spectrum Charter Internet Assist
CDC Resources for Community and Faith-Based Leaders: Check out the CDC’s detailed website offering guidance and resources for community and faith based leaders. For overall information from the CDC, visit here.
State/Local COVID-19 Updates: for additional reliable information on the spread of COVID-19 we recommend following:
- The Kent County Health Department
- Michigan Safe Start Map: this new, online dashboard visually illustrates COVID-19 risks and trends in Michigan, providing residents with important information about the pandemic status where they live and work. The COVID-19 data displayed on the dashboard represents publicly available case, death and test data analyzed to determine overall level of risk and key trends. Graphs, numbers and trends provide a snapshot of how much virus is in a community, and whether it is increasing or decreasing. To view the map and dashboard, visit MiStartMap.info.
- City of Grand Rapids Coronavirus Updates and City Activity and Events updates.
If you have additional resources that we should be aware of, email firstname.lastname@example.org to let us kno