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Recession over? Not so fast, say nonprofits
Requests for aid from local agencies is up some places, down at others
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Economists may have declared that the U.S. recession ended in 2009, but some local agencies are still out to lunch on that declaration.

"We have seen a 52 percent increase for requests for assistance," said the Rev. Steve Napier of Gainesville Action Ministries.

"As of (Thursday), we had received 2,159 inquiries. At the same point last year, we'd only gotten around 1,200. We're getting calls from a lot of people who needed help before the economy went bad, but we're also seeing the impact that the economy has had on people who may not have needed us before."

The Gainesville ministry is a nonprofit organization that provides emergency financial assistance to individuals, based on referrals from a network of local churches.

"Some (emergency assistance) agencies are running out of money, and so they have been referring more people to us," Napier said. "We're fortunate enough to have cash reserves and to be a part of the larger Action Ministries Inc. network, which also has its own reserves."

The Gainesville-Hall County Community Service Center offers emergency assistance to residents struggling to pay their water bills. Year-to-date, officials say they have seen a 67 percent decrease in requests for assistance.

"That drop means one of two things," said Phillipa Lewis Moss, center director. "Either people are doing better and don't have a need for water bill assistance, or they are doing so poorly that they're doubling up with other families and are no longer in need of resources for water bill assistance."

Although requests have decreased, the depth of need seems to be increasing.

"We have found that the people who are coming in seem far more desperate," Lewis Moss said. "There are fewer people coming in, but for the ones that we do see, their circumstances are incredibly bleak."

While times seem to still be tough for some, Lewis Moss said there have been a few signs the overall economy is improving. Each year, the city of Gainesville has a Community Trust Fund Campaign, where employees can elect to have funds deducted from their pay checks and donated to charitable organizations. This year, the city was able to raise $50,000, an increase from last year.

"We were pretty surprised that we surpassed last year's total," she said. "At a minimum, it shows that people are starting to exhibit more confidence in the economy and are willing to spend and donate their money."

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