Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Economic Return on an Investment in Education

by Linda Cameron, Sr. Marketing Associate

Why It Matters
Rigorous research demonstrates that children who participate in high-quality early learning programs are significantly more likely to enter school with the underlying skills needed to succeed in school and later in the workforce. These programs have been shown to increase language skills, lower the need for special education, and increase graduation rates.

Providing quality early learning is a key factor in attracting skilled workers and new business to Washington State. Unskilled workers cost the United States $319 billion annually in lost wages, productivity and taxes. Businesses spend $3.7 billion each year teaching basic skills to employees.

In addition, research shows that investments in early learning will save Washington businesses millions of dollars lost every year due to employee absenteeism because of child care problems. On average, parents miss five to nine days of work every year dealing with child care arrangements.

In Washington State, research shows that investing in quality early education creates new jobs immediately and grows the economy. In these tough economic times, businesses look at their bottom lines every day and analyze how to generate the most return for each dollar invested.

These investments pay big dividends to businesses both today and tomorrow. They strengthen communities and get children ready for school and work. These investments have a higher return than investments in all other major sectors, including manufacturing, wholesale trade, retail trade, utilities and transportation.

Every dollar invested in early childhood programs will generate more than $2 in additional employment and spending on goods and services. Moreover, every two early education jobs created will generate enough spending to support another job.

George Le Masurier, publisher of The Peninsula Gateway wrote, “If we just provided high-quality preschools for our state’s 4-year-olds, we could save public schools 10 percent of the special education budget, about $120 million a year.”

All of this is just another way of saying that what happens before kids start school really counts.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Introducing LU

This is LU. LU is a long-time friend of United Way and is beginning a tour of Pierce County. Along the way, LU would like to show you some of his favorite spots and introduce you to his close partners. He'll share a photo and tell you a little about each one as he goes. If you can guess where LU is in Pierce County, there is a prize in it for you! Watch for LU on our Facebook page at...


Friday, March 4, 2011

Partnership Makes New Eatonville MultiCare Clinic a Reality

by Nicole Milbradt, Sr. Marketing Associate & Events Manager

People in rural areas have limited access to health care. For residents of southern Pierce County, like Eatonville, Ashford and Elbe, accessing health care meant driving more than 20 miles away. Residents recognized the area was underserved and could be one of the worst affected in the event of a disaster on Mount Rainier. That’s when they contacted United Way of Pierce County. The UWPC Health Impact team brought together key partners from MultiCare/Good Samaritan and local leaders who later built a new health care facility. The new facility will serve more patients and provide x-ray and lab services, making accessing health care easier for those in outlying areas of Pierce County.

United Way of Pierce County convenes partners to make an impact on the most critical issues affecting our community, including access to healthcare.

Friday, February 11, 2011

South Sound 2-1-1: A Lifeline for Those in Need

by Nicole Milbradt, Sr. Marketing Associate & Events Manager

Evidence of the recession is everywhere. At United Way of Pierce County, nothing reveals the affects of the economic downturn more than the demand on South Sound 2-1-1.

South Sound 2-1-1 is a service of United Way of Pierce County that provides callers with referrals for non-emergency resources, like shelter, food banks and utility assistance. In 2009, over 76,000 callers from Pierce, Thurston and Lewis counties reached out to 2-1-1. In 2010, that number grew to nearly 84,000 callers. They served a record number in December including, 9,062 calls for the month and 626 calls in just one day. The increase in need was obvious.

Yet, only 36 percent of the callers who contacted the agencies they were referred to actually received help. Most were turned away because the agencies simply didn’t have the resources available to serve the number of people in need.

The need has grown while funding has decreased, leaving many nonprofits trying to do more with less. South Sound 2-1-1 experienced this for themselves in 2010. State funding limitations and staff reductions made it difficult for Information and Referral Specialists at 2-1-1 to respond to every call. Nearly 9 percent of callers were not able to get through.

However, those who did get through and did contact their referrals found the vital hope they needed. Utility assistance and rent and mortgage assistance accounted for 38.3 percent of the calls to South Sound 2-1-1. Verna, an elderly woman, living alone, was one of the many who contacted South Sound 2-1-1 seeking utility assistance. Another caller sought help after her husband was injured on the job and they found themselves unable to pay their mortgage. She was referred to a number of agencies that helped her pay the bills until her husband’s injury pay came in.

Shelter and affordable housing are also frequently requested resources. Melissa was a single-mom fleeing a domestic violence situation. Thanks to referrals from South Sound 2-1-1 and United Way’s Affordable Housing Guide, she was able to find a home for her family.

South Sound 2-1-1 also helps people with food, health issues, transportation, legal counsel, clothing and household needs and holiday and seasonal assistance.

HOW CAN YOU HELP?Volunteer as an Information and Referral Specialist at South Sound 2-1-1, answering phone calls and providing referrals

Advocate for funding from our state leaders for WIN 2-1-1 to help support the 2-1-1 system locally and state wide

Participate in this year’s Community Campaign and help United Way of Pierce County provide funding to more than 100 local programs struggling to serve those in need. This year all new and increased gifts will be matched, multiplying the difference your donation can make.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Cold, warm, balmy, or freezing weather … it’s always full at area shelters.

by Linda Cameron, Sr. Marketing Associate

The line starts at 3:00 o’clock in the afternoon for the 153 sleeping spots available at the Rescue Mission’s Downtown Tacoma Campus. Irrespective of the weather, all of the beds are filled every night. On average, 35 men are turned away because there is no room. Every day, in the cafeteria after the evening meal, the tables and chairs are moved out of the way and the 50 plus sleeping mats are laid out for the night. In January, 58 new clients were enrolled, up slightly over January 2010’s numbers.

Additional need does not translate into more staff says Frank Jackson, Rescue Mission’s Downtown Tacoma Campus Director. More people with the same number of staff create management difficulties. When staff was stretched to the limit, he reached out to volunteers and interns to fill those needs.

A warm place to stay overnight is just one component of services provided. Over the past four years, the Downtown Tacoma Campus has seen a 25 percent increase in single moms with young children coming to eat at the campus. No one is turned away at meal time.

When asked how the cold weather has affected their campus, Frank said there is a constant need for coats, hats, gloves and scarves to help protect against the elements.

Jan Sonntag, Adams Street Family Campus’ Capital Campaign Director, echoed the constant need for coats, hats and gloves.

“What is the bare minimum for you is not the same as someone on the street.” Homeless people live with the barest of minimum. For most, their lives are contained in a plastic bag. In December, over 11,000 pieces of clothing were distributed through the Rescue Mission’s Campuses.

Sonntag said the Rescue Mission works hard to meet the basic needs of its clients.

“We’re doing our best to stop the revolving door.”

Special Thanks to our funded partners who are serving those in need of shelter - Tacoma Rescue Mission and Catholic Community Services.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

United Way Continues to Support Local Programs Despite Economic Challenges

by Nicole Milbradt, Sr. Marketing Associate & Events Manager

United Way of Pierce County announced funding amounts for more than 100 local programs. The decisions seek to sustain the heavily-burdened human services community but also reflect ongoing challenges created by a tough economic climate.

While 18 new programs will receive funding, some programs funded by United Way in the last cycle were not funded or received cuts from 5 to 90 percent.

“Workplace and corporate contributions to United Way have declined for the third straight year,” said United Way of Pierce County President Rick Allen. “This trend is consistent with campaigns across the nation. The cutbacks we have had to make have very little to do with program success, as outcomes being produced by many of these nonprofits are substantial and impressive. It is all about the economy.”

Local nonprofits have been faced with a dual challenge as funding continues to decrease while demand for human services continues to rise. More than 160 programs applied for funds amounting to over $5.5 million in requests. United Way’s Community Solutions Fund, which is used to support local programs, has seen more than a 50 percent decrease over the last three years, putting the fund at its lowest amount in nearly a decade.

To help offset the impact of the funding results, United Way of Pierce County’s board of directors approved a process that will adjust funding for those programs being cut or decreased gradually. These programs will receive a portion of their current funding for the next nine months to help with the transition. At the same time, programs being funded will increase over time to the full amount.

“It’s not the perfect scenario,” said Allen, “but most of these programs are administered by long-standing partners and we want to assist them in whatever way we can.”

Russell Investments and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have partnered with United Way of Pierce County on a $1 million matching grant intended to help alleviate the dramatic affect the recession has had on the nonprofit community. New gifts to the Community Solutions Fund will be matched by the grant and could raise an additional $2 million for investment in Pierce County.

“We are hopeful that those new companies and new donors that join us as a result of the match will see the value returned on the dollars they have invested and stay with us in future years,” explained Allen. “That gives all of us hope that we will start to turn this around and provide more opportunity for those in need to move toward stability and self-sufficiency.”

Additionally, changes to United Way’s funding process also affected funding decisions. In 2007, United Way began discussing with its direct-service partners and others a new strategy that would align more closely with its work in Education, Income, Health and Emergency Services and address emerging issues.

“We revised our funding strategy to create stronger, more sustainable outcomes to meet the needs of our community,” explained Pamela Duncan-Pierce, director of community assessment and investment at United Way of Pierce County. “The decrease in funding dollars combined with process changes made for a very competitive process. There were fewer dollars to address a phenomenal increase in need.”

Applications for funding are submitted to United Way and evaluated by a team of volunteers comprised of local community members. Volunteers looked for applications that offered services which resulted in the strongest outcomes in United Way’s priority areas of Education, Income, Health and Emergency Services.

The funding recommendations are presented to United Way’s Board of Directors for approval. Applicants were notified of the 2011-2013 funding decisions December 15, 2010. United Way funds on a three-year cycle with current funding set to end December 31, 2010.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Have You Earned More Money Than You Think?

by Nicole Milbradt, Sr. Marketing Associate & Events Manager

It may not be April but many people are already starting to think about their taxes. Many local families are eligible for a tax credit that could put more money in their pockets but very few of them are aware of it.

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a tax break for people who work but do not earn high incomes. Taxpayers who qualify and claim the credit could pay less federal tax, pay no tax or receive a refund.

People eligible for the EITC must meet the following criteria:
  1. Have earned income either by working for someone else or working for a business they own
  2. Have a valid Social Security number

  3. Cannot file as married filing separately

  4. Generally cannot be a nonresident alien

  5. Cannot be a qualifying child of another person

  6. Cannot be filing Form 2555 or Form 2555-EZ

  7. Investment income amount is limited
If you earn less than $48,362 and you have a child, brother, sister, grandchild, niece, nephew, stepchild or adopted child living with you, you may be eligible. If you earn less than $18,470 and you have no children and are at least age 25 and under 65, you may be eligible.
Tax preparers, both paid and volunteer, can help you determine if you are eligible and file your taxes properly to ensure you recieve the credit. Not sure it is worth the bother?
If your earned income and adjusted gross income (AGI) are each less than:
  • $43,352 ($48,362 married filing jointly) with three or more qualifying children , your maximum credit could be $5,666.

  • $40,363 ($45,373 married filing jointly) with two qualifying children, your maximum credit could be $5,036.

  • $35,535 ($40,545 married filing jointly) with one qualifying child, your maximum credit could be $3,050.

  • $13,460 ($18,470 married filing jointly) with no qualifying children, your maximum credit could be $457.
Don't miss this opportunity to put more money back in your pocket. Visit www.irs.gov/eitc to find out if you are eligible and how to recieve this credit when you file this year.

Visit one of
these sites to have your return prepared by volunteers for free.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Why Do You Volunteer?

 by Nicole Milbradt, Sr. Marketing Associate & Events Manager

Martin Luther King Jr. was a man who knew the importance of community. We celebrate him every January for the remarkable things he did and what he stood for. This January, more than 120 youth gave their day off for the Martin Luther King holiday back to the community by volunteering.
Now some people might wonder why a teenager would choose to spend their day working when they didn't have to. We wondered that too. So we asked several of the students who volunteered. Their responses?

"It feels good to give back."
"I want to help the community like Martin Luther King Jr did."
"I like to help others with my friends."
"It's cool to volunteer!"

Find out what other volunteers said by visiting our YouTube page at www.youtube.com/UnitedWayofPierceCo or at our Youth United Facebook page at www.facebook.com/YouthUnited.