Last week close to two dozen individuals showed up to see what speaker Karn Vanni, from BEST (Building Economic Strength Together) and RDI (Rural Dynamics, Inc.), had to say about rural economics. Attendees ranged from individuals looking to improve their businesses to agencies looking to branch out and help the community better.
Vanni quoted some interesting facts to get the crowd thinking about issues that might face rural areas. Some of those issues included just over 42 percent of the population in Montana couldn’t survive for three months if they lost their job. She also stated that Montana was in the bottom 10 states for low wages and affordable homes. Glasgow has felt some of those burdens.
Several of those representing agencies listed a multitude of programs available to help those in need in the community. An issue with these programs offering funds for job training, food for those in need, funding for those looking to start a business and medical assistance. The problem with all these programs is that it’s hard to get word out to the public and some of these programs have hoops and loops to jump through.
As someone who struggled hard financially to support myself, struggled to get through college and faced/faces financial challenges, I can say I have experience with trying to work through some of these programs. An issue was brought up during the discussion and I felt it wasn’t focused on. While there are many people available for low-income families, there’ a large gap in the middle.
When I struggled enough to seek assistance I found out I made $100 too much. My choice was to either cut my hours at work to get help, or try to find another way for help. I also had a wonderful co-worker; she was so great they offered her a promotion, more hours and more money. Unfortunately within a month of that promotion she lost her childcare assistance. She ended up quitting her job because she could not afford childcare. Many have felt these frustrations.
Other issues brought up at the meeting were lack of emergency shelters, education and training for local jobs, bringing the youth home to work after college, emergency care for pets when owners find themsleves strapped and funding for many programs that already exist.
When it comes down to it, money is a problem. Rural areas depend and rely on small businesses to keep the economy running. Shopping locally supports not only the businesses, but the employees who need the job to survive.
The job center in Glasgow has also done a great job at being a hub of information for programs throughout the community to help those in need. Finding a way to have one central location for all those assistance programs could really help the people in Glasgow. They could stop in one place and find all the different agencies and the people to contact when in need.
Many of those attending voiced their main concern as affordable housing. How can the community grow, bring in more jobs and workers and more business if housing is an issues? Vanni’s suggestion was to focus on policy changes that might help the community. Changing procedures and focusing on those gaps that might not be fully covered.
While I’m not one to jump on adding more policy and regulations, I do agree that current policies could be reviewed. Seeing if those policies are really helping the community, or if small changes could be made to improve those programs that already exist, is a lot more helpful than reinventing the wheel.
Whatever the solution may be for existing issues, Glasgow sure has a lot of options for a rural community on places to go when they need a helping hand. Persistence for those who might be down in the doldrums is key to continuing, but making sure the community is ready to hand out direction or help can make all the difference.