And they're in jeopardy for some Ottawa County residents after the federal government withdrew funding for the Emergency Food and Shelter Program.
The program received $187,000 last year — about half of what it got the prior year — to help those in the most desperate of circumstances in Ottawa and Allegan counties.
The sad part is that the funding was lost because two of the local poverty statistics were off by fractions of a percentage point. The counties have a combined unemployment rate of 10 percent, whereas the requirement is 10.7 percent. The two counties' poverty rate clocked in at 15.4 percent, just four-tenths of a percentage point less than required.
The need is great, and helping people stay warm and fed this winter will certainly be a daunting task for agencies already stretched thin in recent years. And now these agencies have lost a huge chunk of funding because the unemployment rolls don’t accurately represent those without jobs, and because of a pesky 0.4 percent poverty rate difference.
Compounding the problem is the fact that food costs are expected to increase by 15-20 percent across the board this winter because of Mother Nature's wrath.
Sure, a whole lot of people need to be held accountable for picking themselves up by their bootstraps and providing for themselves and their families. But we are not talking about people who drive Cadillac Escalades up to the food pantry doors. These lost funds went to help those who are close to losing everything and face a long road back to the stability we all seek.
We must ask, why the all-or-nothing approach to funding? Why aren't emergency food and shelter programs given priority in our nation's spending plans? Where are the legislators when families are in such great need of basic necessities?
It certainly seems they've turned a blind eye to real need, right here in Ottawa County.
Call your representatives and senators. Demand a focus on priorities that matter to you and your neighbors.
We consider basic needs among the highest priorities. How about you?
Our Views reflects the majority opinion of the members of the Grand Haven Tribune editorial board: Kevin Hook, Cheryl Welch, Matt DeYoung, Liz Stuck and Fred VandenBrand. What do you think? E-mail us a letter to the editor to firstname.lastname@example.org or log-in to our website and leave a comment below.