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A Civic Engagement Campaign for 2020 

2020 is an important year for America’s democracy, with critical resources and political representation at stake. And United Way is deeply involved. From building awareness of the U.S. Census to activating voter registration, more than 200 state and local United Ways are leading voter and census engagement initiatives across the country.

Civic engagement is at the heart of what United Way does. For over 130 years, United Way has brought together leaders in communities to solve problems in a non-partisan manner. Today, our role is even more important than ever. We know that solving the health and economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic means that people need to be civically engaged, policymakers must take action that will help workers, children and families, and we need an accurate census count to determine where resources are needed the most.

To meet the challenges of this moment, United Way has launched the United We Count, United We Vote campaign to mobilize local United Ways, partners and caring citizens in helping people be civically engaged and make their voices heard during this time of uncertainty. We invite every person in every community to join us by pledging to complete the census and pledging to vote in 2020. Join the fight. Link to the website is here.

Give. Advocate. Volunteer. Live United.

Greater Ottawa County United Way

The Time for equity is now

United Way is dedicated to empowering individuals to reach their full potential and lead thriving lives. In this unique and uncertain time, United Way remains committed to building inclusive communities where donors, stakeholders, advocates, volunteers and partners come together to make real progress in addressing inequities in education, income and health.

Equity, removing barriers and increasing opportunities for everyone is our focus, a priority that must always and persistently be pursued in the present. Uncertainty, rapid change and disruption has shaken us out of our comfort zone and caused pervasive anxiety. So much so that our natural inclination is to retreat into comfort, into the not so distant past and into the way of being that many affectionately refer to as “normal.” What is becoming clearer every day is that despite our best efforts to revert to how things were before the COVID-19 pandemic, we will never truly get there.

The uncomfortable truth is “normal” under the circumstances that existed prior to COVID-19 sweeping across the globe was woefully untenable, to begin with. Virtually every indicator for health, education and financial well-being presented glaring racial gaps. As communities of color brace for the brunt of this on-going medical and financial crisis these preexisting inequities stand to be further exacerbated. Early evidence of this is already emerging. Now is the time for us to stand resolute in our cause.

The reality is many of our communities were in crisis long before the pandemic. Sadly, we are already seeing evidence these same communities are most impacted by this ongoing crisis. Our commitment as a United Way network is to remain steadfast in our push for equity in the present. Our call to action for you all is to do the same. It is as vital as ever that internal change in operations and policy that creates equitable workplaces continue. It will take us understanding and addressing the factors that impede progress based on identity to create more inclusive organizations, companies, communities and nation. We must vigorously pursue equity in the present so we can create a future that works for all of us.

Give. Advocate. Volunteer. Live United.

Greater Ottawa County United Way

Source: United Way Worldwide

covid-19 & alice part 2

In last week’s blog on discovering ALICE we answered the question, “Who is ALICE?” and the various challenges facing these individuals and households amid the COVID-19 mitigation efforts in Ottawa County. To continue this series on ALICE in part 2 we discuss the assistance ALICE may receive during the crisis, and what you can do to help an individual or household in your community who falls in the ALICE category.

Government Actions to Assist ALICE:

The federal government has provided relief to households amid the job losses via a stimulus check and unemployment benefits. Housing regulations such as a hold on evictions along with banking relief measures are the ways the government assists ALICE individuals and households. See a summary below:

-Immediate Income to Offset Ongoing Bills

  • Unemployment Benefits
  • Cash Payment Assistnace (stimulus check)


  • Paid sick leave
  • Coverage for health expenses


  • Rent/mortgage freezes
  • Moratorium on evictions and foreclosures

-Debt & Credit Cards

  • Relief for student loans
  • Suspend credit card late fees

-Jobs to Go Back to

  • Small businesses
  • Industry bailouts
  • Work programs

Business Actions to Assist ALICE:

Businesses in Ottawa County have the ability to assist ALICE through various categories of assistance.

-Jobs Both Present & Future

  • Job-share, flexible hours, shift rotations
  • Safety measures, new cleaning protocols
  • Work-from-home support and technology
  • Increase in hourly rate for essential workers
  • Provide free back-up care for dependents
  • Continue to pay during closed/suspended service

-Health Care

  • Paid and unpaid sick leave
  • Paid leave for workers in risk groups
  • Maintain health insurance

-Internet Companies

  • Access to internet and technology

-Community Support

  • Relief funds
  • Food bank support, beverages, meals
  • Supplies for health care professionals

What YOU can do: Action For ALICE:

Now it is time to discuss what you can do for ALICE individuals and households in Ottawa County.

-Make the case for ALICE in your community

Social Media: @United4ALICE on Twitter and Facebook

#HelpALICE #EssentialALICE #UnitedForALICE #ActionForALICE #MeetALICE #ALICErecovery

Covid-19 & alice part 1

Who is alice?

If you follow Greater Ottawa County United Way through the community impact journey then the name ALICE most likely registers with you as we speak on this philosophy created by the United Way. Who is ALICE? ALICE stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, & Employed. This individual is above the Federal Poverty Level but below the Household Survival Budget.

Which sectors of employment does ALICE occupy? Lower-wage jobs Any lower wage job is likely to find themselves part of the ALICE population, and this group is important to keeping the community running on a daily basis. These individuals face obstacles including no savings for emergencies or for investing in their future through education, home ownership, and retirement. Although wages are rising, necessary expenses are rising faster.

Before we discuss how ALICE individuals have been negatively effected by the COVID-19 pandemic, let us first review key terms related to ALICE households.


covid-19 crisis & alice

The following are the obstacles that various demographics face right now here in Ottawa County…

The number of ALICE households will increase as the mitigation efforts continue for the Coronavirus. Inequalities are exacerbated by the pandemic through the following:

1. Rising unemployment

2. Closed businesses

3. Halted production of goods/services

School closures have a significant impact on families with children and college students

•Disruption to normal life – meals, socialization, learning

•For some children, school is their one safe place

•Having children at home limits parents’ ability to work

•Digital divide – gap in access to internet and technology

•College students – online learning challenges, loss of housing/meals, jobs

•Many school and college staffers are ALICE workers

Seniors: The Most Vulnerable Age Group

Almost half of seniors are below the ALICE Threshold and face unique challenges

•Stock market decline will reduce retirement funds

•Seniors often live in group quarters with higher infection risk

•Delays in non-essential care cause/exacerbate health issues

•Increased isolation

•Restricted visiting to senior housing

•Closure of senior centers

•ALICE caregivers, paid and unpaid

•More responsibility, fewer supports

•Disrupted medication supply chain

ALICE Essential Workers: Low-Wage, High-Risk

Essential Workers are at Risk

•Many ALICE jobs are critical now; workers vulnerable to illness

•Health care workers

•Grocery store clerks

•Limited protective gear

•Many essential workers also have additional family caregiving responsibilities

•No safety net = no choice but to work

•Higher levels of stress

ALICE Non-Essential Workers

Non-essential workers face job insecurity

•Half of jobs are hourly paid – most vulnerable

•Many households don’t have savings to withstand reduced income

•Digital divide – gap in who can work from home

•Unemployment reaching new levels

•Even more ALICE jobs not captured in unemployment statistics

•Self-employed, “side-hustles”

•Infrastructure maintenance being deferred, will cause problems in the future

•Will take months/years to ramp up infrastructure jobs

Alice households were already vulnerable to hardship long before the effects of COVID-19 mitigation began. The effects of COVID-19 mitigation only compound the problems for ALICE households across the Greater Ottawa County. Stay tuned for part 2 of the “Coronavirus & Alice” blog series where we dive deeper into the health forecasts of COVID-19 and what they mean for ALICE individuals and households.

To learn more about ALICE read the full Michigan report here, and the Ottawa report here. To contribute your time and money toward ALICE individuals and households in Ottawa County please visit Greater Ottawa County United Way’s website to learn more.

Live United,

Greater Ottawa County United Way

COVID-19 Response: Stay Updated on Our Efforts

COVID-19 has posed difficulties for many individuals and families in Ottawa County related to housing, food distribution, daycare, basic needs, and in many more ways. Over the past month we have received support and assistance from our generous and giving community through donations, volunteering, and collaboration. This first phase of local impact continues, and we still need giving, advocating, and volunteering from community members at

Since Launching the COVID-19 Response We Have Been Able to:

  • Collaborate with the Grand Haven Community Foundation and the Community Foundation of the Holland Zeeland Area to create where people can find help or give help.
  • Collaboratively fundraise for a joint “Emergency Human Needs Funds” with the above partners that gave more than 50 grants in 24 days to more than 30 local agencies. These grants totaled approximately $500,000.
  • Recruit and mobilize over 350 volunteers, a third of which are credentialed through the Ottawa County Emergency Operations Center.
  • These volunteers and grants went to support emergency responses in the following areas:
    • Housing Supports
    • Food Pantries
    • Basic Needs
    • Tele-Health Access
    • Mental Health
    • Homelessness
    • Senior Food Delivery
    • Senior Well Checks
    • Shelter In Place Kits
    • Prescription Delivery
    • & More
  • Work with member agencies to identify available alternate housing for people experiencing homelessness.
  • Are in contact with all our community nonprofits to ascertain their needs for funds, goods, and volunteers.

Although statistics are showing signs that social distancing is working in Ottawa County and Michigan as a whole, there are many local families who are struggling after being laid off amid the virus outbreak and industry shutdown. A special thank you to those who have given and volunteered to this cause. To continue your valued involvement please find local volunteer opportunity updates here.

In addition, thank you to all the individuals and businesses who have given to the Emergency Human Needs Fund through the Ottawa County COVID-19 response page at Our impact stories are many and our most recent one “Katrina’s story” is made possible by our generous and giving community.

Read more about Katrina’s story here 👉 Katrina’s Story.

The Next Phase In Our Community Response

United Way is dedicated to the well-being of our community and we are closely watching the developments surrounding the spread of Coronavirus. The work that we have been able to do together so far has been vital to our community’s ability to get through this crisis. But we have to consider this work as phase 1. We are entering a time where the long-term financial and social impact of the virus on our partner agencies, corporate partners, and community members, will also need a similar response.

In order to continue to respond to the long-term effects of the COVID-19 crisis, Greater Ottawa County United Way will soon be launching our phase two response called the “Community Recovery Campaign”. Stay tuned to this blog for how together, united, our communities will be able to come out of this crisis stronger than ever.

We encourage everyone to read these recommendations from the Ottawa County Department of Public Health for reducing the risk of COVID-19 infection for yourselves and others. 

Live United,

Greater Ottawa County United Way