Township Team Assists Neighbors Impacted By Challenging Economy
These are not easy times for many people in our community still feeling the ramifications of COVID-19 and a harsh economy that doesn’t look to end anytime soon.
Every week on the second floor of Niles Township, our social workers, and a bright new addition to our team, work diligently to help neighbors navigate unprecedented choppy waters indicative of today’s challenges. Our assistance programs — General Assistance, Emergency Assistance and more — have helped people pay for their housing, keeping their lights turned on, child care services and other basic needs.
Social Workers Ruth Orme-Johnson and Holly Zimmermann report an unprecedented number of people applying to the Township for Emergency Assistance, which is intended to alleviate a life-threatening circumstance. It is available to eligible Niles Township residents no more than once a year.
The Township has awarded about 200 people Emergency Assistance this fiscal year — April to October — compared to 77 Emergency Assistance grants all of last fiscal year. For the first time in recent memory, the Township had to replenish its Emergency Assistance fund to make sure we continue to help the many people feeling a financial impact right now.
Inflation and a difficult economy are only some of the reasons Emergency Assistance has seen a significant spike at Niles Township. The Township closed its COVID-19 Response Fund in March, but many people’s needs still exist. It also adjusted the requirements for Emergency Assistance so that residents no longer need an eviction notice to qualify for rental assistance using the fund.
General Assistance, which offers financial assistance to eligible Niles Township residents who currently have no income due to unemployment or are awaiting assistance from other resources, has not seen the same spike — in part because of its narrower eligibility requirements.
“Emergency Assistance is not intended to be something that’s relied on every year,” Ruth said. “But we’ve seen more people apply two or three years in a row so we thought it would be helpful to look at the broader issues that may be going on.”
In that light, Amy Pooley has been offering her financial planning expertise to our clients in recent months at no charge to the Township.
Amy, who is also Ruth’s wife, meets with clients who have applied for Emergency Assistance multiple times because of economic hardship. Compassionate and understanding, Amy works one-on-one with those in need to find helpful ways to remain financially afloat moving forward.
“Most people would prefer to feel a sense of control over their month-to-month expenses and don’t want to feel like they’re falling short a lot,” Amy said.
Amy’s background is ideal for helping clients consider longer-term financial footing — sometimes for the first time. She worked as a certified public accountant out of college and is now finishing up a degree in clinical mental health counseling as an intern. The Township saw an opportunity to integrate her to provide counseling for repeat Emergency Assistance clients.
”Money is so deeply integrated with every aspect of our lives,” Amy said. “I’ve seen a number of people who are seniors who are living on fixed incomes but many others as well. We try to get their basic needs met when they have limited options for making more money.”
Amy is available as a resource and a support for clients. She has knowledge of personal finance and can work with clients using budget templates and other measures. Together, they address financial challenges that can be formidable.
“Sometimes, people are in a situation where bringing in more money is pretty challenging,” she said. “Getting a higher income might not be available.”
Amy and her clients talk about ways to reduce costs or tap into other resources they may not have known were available. She sees both unemployed and underemployed clients and considers their circumstances on an individual basis.
“The goal is to explore ways to get clients in a situation where they’re not falling short and then needing emergency help regularly in the future,” she said.
Amy’s valuable contribution to the Niles Township team is another way in which the Township responds to shifting and emerging needs of those most vulnerable in our community. The Township is an ideal resource: Our social workers are case workers, too, so if they are not able to provide direct assistance, they can refer and reach out for clients so they can access just the right help.
For more information about Township assistance programs, email email@example.com or call (847) 673-9300, ext. 105.
Social Worker Ruth Orme-Johnson (left) and Amy Pooley, both part of the Niles Township team, with their daughter, Katie.