Street Talk: Never too early


Organizers say the first round of funding from the Ready by Five Early Childhood Millage will help thousands of families in Kent County connect to programs that improve the health and school readiness of young children.

The initial funding is dedicated to navigation and outreach services that will help families know what is available in the community and how to access the resources that best meet their needs.

A Resident Proposal Review Board — which consists of nine community members, including parents, an early childhood expert and Kent County officials — reviewed proposals from local organizations that applied for funding. The review board made recommendations to First Steps Kent on July 17. These recommendations then were approved by the Kent County Board of Commissioners’ Finance and Physical Resources Committee and the full county board.

“The board of commissioners appreciates the work of First Steps Kent and the Resident Proposal Review Board in making funding recommendations for community-based programs that will ensure our children are ready for school,” Kent County Administrator Wayman Britt said. “Our board remains committed to the Ready by Five millage to ensure our tax dollars are not only used responsibly but that the funding will have the greatest impact on our children and their families.”

The recommendations call for a total of $2.4 million to be distributed through 2021 to the following organizations:

Family Futures — $763,324

Family Promise of Grand Rapids — $50,000

Health Net of West Michigan — $930,000

Kent Intermediate School District — $656,676

The organizations will connect expectant parents and parents of young children with information to early childhood and support services in the community. Navigation and outreach services will be available to families across Kent County, with a strategic focus on those with the greatest needs.

“We are proud of the passionate, thoughtful work that the Resident Proposal Review Board has put into the selection process,” said Annemarie Valdez, president and CEO of First Steps Kent. “Research tells us the earlier we connect to families, the greater the benefits for their children. With this funding, the four organizations will reach thousands of additional families in Kent County and will support parents as they work to give their children the best possible start in life.”

Kent County voters approved the Ready by Five Early Childhood Millage on Nov. 6. It will generate approximately $5.7 million a year for six years. The next round of funding will become available later this year to programs that provide ongoing support to strengthen families and nurture the healthy development and early learning of young children.

Points of interest

The personal finance website WalletHub last week released two key reports on the contents of our collective pocket.

Its latest Credit Card Debt Study found consumers racked up $35.6 billion in credit card debt during the second quarter of 2019 — an all-time record for the second quarter of the year. WalletHub projects consumers will end the year with a net increase of $70 billion in credit card debt.

The Fed Rate Cut Survey revealed a Federal Reserve interest rate cut on Sept. 18, which 7 in 10 people support, would save people with credit card debt $1.6 billion in the next year alone. The average household currently owes $8,602.

The latter survey also found 41% of people say they will feel more confident in the economy if the Fed cuts its short-term interest rate this month.

WalletHub CEO Odysseas Papadimitriou said the increase in credit card debt in the U.S. is alarming.

“Our overleveraging problem has been trending in the wrong direction for some time now, and the latest data indicate we’re truly entering dangerous territory,” he said.

On whether it’s a good idea for the Fed to cut its target rate, Papadimitriou said he was on board with the July rate cut but said another this month would be too soon.

“I do not believe a rate cut is called for currently, based on the immediate economic outlook,” he said. “It’s kind of like shooting one of your few remaining bullets when the fighting hasn’t even started yet.”

He said if the cut happens, consumers should plan to pay off their credit card balances “at a faster clip.”

“Having to pay less in interest means more of your payment can go toward the principal balance,” Papadimitriou said. “Unfortunately, that’s not what we’re seeing. Instead, it seems like consumers are ramping up their reliance on credit card debt. This is an ominous signal, as there are a lot of similarities to the time shortly before the last recession.”

He foresees a low risk for recession in the next several months, however.

“We’re always at risk of a recession, in a sense, but … the fundamentals of the economy are looking strong,” Papadimitriou said.

“One of the biggest risks is consumers panicking without reason. And on that note, I think it’s important to point out that the next downturn won’t look anything like the Great Recession. This time around, I highly doubt we’ll have a segment of the economy as crucial as the financial sector’s almost fail.”

Creative expression

Rockford Construction has been working with Grand Valley State University on a monthlong exhibit downtown.

The exhibit, titled “Endless Possibilities,” will showcase works from award-winning faculty at GVSU’s Department of Visual and Media Arts. Works include animation, ceramics, digital art, film, graphic design, painting, photography, printmaking, sculpture, textiles, video art and more.

To highlight the full university experience, academic and artist talks, workshops and special performances will be offered in conjunction with the exhibition.

“There’s never been a better time or greater need for creative expression,” said Kim Roberts, chair of the Department of Visual and Media Arts. “This exhibition reflects the vitality of the arts today — innovative and diverse.”

The exhibition will take place on several floors of The Morton in downtown Grand Rapids. Much of The Morton was updated in 2015 when Rockford Construction performed significant renovations to offer modern apartments in the center of the city, but the NOMAD Gallery by Richard App at 74 Monroe Center NW remains unfinished, providing an ideal canvas for experiencing “Endless Possibilities.”

“As a curator, I am beyond excited to work with such a talented group of creatives who span such a wide array of expertise. Having worked with several members of the faculty over the last few years, I’m proud to be showcasing their work and GVSU in this unique, downtown location,” Richard App said.

“We’re honored to host the diverse works of Grand Valley State University’s faculty members,” said Monica Steimle-App, executive vice president of real estate development for Rockford Construction. “Bringing community together is at the heart of what we do. Showcasing this collection inside this space offers an experience unlike any other in the city.”

The exhibition runs from noon-7 p.m. Monday through Saturday. It started Sept. 14 and will run until Oct. 27.

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