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Programs available to help people with bills, rent, and Christmas gifts during pandemic

Posted at 7:05 PM, Dec 16, 2020

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Millions in Michigan are struggling during the pandemic.

They’ve lost their jobs, they can’t afford Christmas presents, and some are having a hard time paying bills.


“We do look at the eligibility criteria for each program and then try to make sure that we get them the best resources to meet their needs,” said United Way 211 Engagement Specialist Jessie Verville.

Jessie Verville is the engagement specialist with United Way’s 211. A service that’s getting several calls from people because their furnaces are not working.

They do provide resources for those types of home repairs, along with high utility bills, rent payments, mortgages, and food to those who are eligible.

“I want everyone to know that 211 is available 24/7. We don’t shut down even on the holidays so please make sure to reach out to us,” said Verville.


Things were so rough last month in West Michigan, the local United Way saw a 70% increase in need.

In November, there were nearly 7,000 calls for help. That’s up about 3,000 from the same month in 2019.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is also seeing a greater need this year.

There are more than 1.2 million Michiganders getting food assistance. That’s about 70,000 more than before the pandemic and 100,000 more than last October.

More than 1.8 million are on Medicaid; up 130,000 from last year and 120,000 since February.

The number of people on the Healthy Michigan Plan (expanded Medicaid) is nearly 825,000. That’s up from 685,000 just eight months earlier.


If the United Way cannot help someone, it will share their information with other agencies to meet those specific needs.

From 211, to the local food banks, Salvation Army and Toys for Tots, there are several options out there.

You can also try your local church as some of them have been known to help people in need.

Here are the other local resources:

Salvation Army

Salvation Army Angel Tree

Kent County Toys for Tots

United Way 211