The Ottawa County Community Action Agency provides both short term help in a crisis as well as long term case management. The goal of the agency is to help low income, unemployed, or working poor families overcome their hardship and regain self-sufficiency.
To ensure this occurs, the non-profit community action agency offers both government funded programs and their own resources. It can include funds to pay back rent or housing costs, free food, LIHEAP applications, and access to medical care. The number of services are extensive.
Free food is from CSFP as well as pantries and also the Emergency Food Assistance Program. The last option, also known as TEFAP, distributes food on a quarterly basis to those in need. OCCAA operates TEFAP sites in Grand Haven, Holland, Coopersville, and Hudsonville.
Once a month the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) furnishes groceries, canned goods, and other food items to individual residents and OCCAA-approved participating facilities. This includes pantries, churches, and local charities, and these can all be approved distribution centers located throughout Ottawa County Michigan.
The purpose of CSFP is to meet the nutritional needs of children from low income families, seniors (aged 60 and older), infants, and even women who are pregnant, or one-year post-partum. The food or free formula passed out in Michigan is for those who do not qualify for the federal government programs of Women, Infants and Children program (WIC) or SNAP.
Migrant Emergency Services from OCCAA assist immigrants, refugees and migrant workers by providing items such as food, gasoline vouchers, gently used clothing, car repairs, and medical and/or dental assistance. In order to be eligible for assistance through this local program, recipients must have proper documentation, meet income conditions and they also need to complete the application process with community action staff members.
The goal of case management, which is part of the Family Development Program, is to guide applicants for any OCCAA services along the path to self-sufficiency. Based on a strengths-based assessment process, the agency will help families set goals, obtain employment and support their efforts with services. Everything is intended to strengthen and nurture families as they move towards economic and social self-sufficiency.
The objective of OCCAA’s Utility Bill Assistance Program is to help income-eligible Ottawa County residents with their energy bills, with a focus on winter heating costs. The government funds that are part of LIHEAP help people avoid heat, electric, and even water service shut-offs because of difficulties in paying the bills. Applicants must have the ability to sustain the service in the future, show a notice of disconnection, and meet the income guidelines from the Ottawa County Community Action Agency.
The Home Weatherization Assistance Program can provide a free inspection of a property and then help individuals gain access to an energy-efficient home. The agency will provide alterations at no cost for qualifying households.
OCCAA performs the home inspection to determine which weatherization tasks are required. The next step is to connect the household with a licensed contractor, who will install all energy saving measures deemed necessary to meet program goals. Weatherization measures include, but are not limited to, free CFL bulbs, insulation of the attic, walls, and floor; minor home repairs such as patching a roof, weather stripping; window caulking; and others.
The Property Improvement Program provides a Michigan State Housing Development Authority sponsored, low-interest loan that is managed by an area bank in Ottawa County. The funds issued need to be repaid on a monthly basis by the individual.
The home repairs and property improvement tasks can include, but are not limited to, replacing the heating system; installing insulation, installing accessibility ramps for the disabled, replacing the roof, and more, as needed. A focus is on safety issues for seniors in Ottawa. As noted, this is not free but rather a low interest loan.
Ottawa County Community Action Agency provides a list of approved contractors as a convenience to the homeowner. That being said, residents of the county are free to hire someone not on the list, as long as he or she is an insured as well as licensed contractor.
Similar to above is Home Rehabilitation. This provides improvements, according to the Michigan State Housing Development Authority's Housing Quality Standards. This is focused on heating and air conditioning, plumbing, roofing and other types of repairs and alterations.
Staff from the community action agency perform home inspections and acts as fiduciary agent, or trustee. Like the Property Improvement Program, Rehabilitation furnishes a loan, which must be repaid by the borrower. However the loan carries no interest, and can be deferred until the home is sold or refinanced. Additionally, OCCAA offers an Emergency Repair Program that provides immediate repairs to seniors or the disabled that are considered to be necessary to prevent a threat to health or safety.
Low income families can get help in filing their taxes and ensuring they receive all the benefits and credits they are entitled too. OCCAA offers free tax return preparation to eligible Ottawa County residents. Services are provided on a first-come, first-served basis by IRS trained volunteers.
Other emergency aid is available as well, as funding allows. Examples include a Transportation Registration Program, Low Income Apartments, and more. If the agency can’t help, then referrals are available. For example, they have partnerships with charities that may offer Deliverable Home Heating Fuel and similar resources.
Michigan Enrolls is available across the state. It provides applicants with assistance in determining whether they are eligible for Medicaid coverage or some other type of public health care. Low-income Ottawa County residents who wish to find out if they or someone in their households qualify for Medicaid are encouraged to contact the State of Michigan Department of Human Services at 616-394-7200, and a representative can answer questions.
For more information, call Ottawa County Community Action Agency. They are located at 12251 James St., Ste. 300, Holland, Michigan 49424-9661. The main number for referrals to these or other resources in the community is 1-877-211-5253.
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