Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Tacoma City Service Budget Cut

by Jill Hilton, Marketing Intern

The graph above is from a handout disturbed by the City of Tacoma
In May, the City of Tacoma projected a budget cut of 60 million dollars for the 2013-2014 budget. This budget cut has the potential to directly affect many different Tacoma Human Service agencies and programs. The 2011-2012 General Fund Budget is broken down into seven different sections: Police, Library, Human Rights and Human Services, Fire Fighters, Community and Economic Development, Public Works and Street Support, and Other Services (administration). Each of these sections makes up a percentage of the total budget. Some of the programs and agencies receive a higher percentage because they demand more support, such as Police and Fire.
The city is looking for ways to cut back the budget and have turned to the people to help.  The city has released a survey for residents of the Tacoma area as well as people who work in the area. This survey has the residents name the priorities of the services from 1 to 10. In addition to the surveys the city also held “Community Input Budget Meetings”, at these meetings residents were encouraged to speak about the different concerns and what service they were most passionate about.
Human Services are part of the budget cut that is coming down the pipe. I had the opportunity to speak with Miriam Barnett, CEO of the YWCA of Pierce County. Miriam explained that this budget cut would affect many in relation to human service. For Miriam at the YWCA, she is fighting to help keep her partners safe, each penny helps to keep the programs running at the YWCA. She also informed me that Tacoma has the highest rate for domestic violence in the state. If funding is cut for these amenities many women and children might have to be turned away from the services. The City relies on human services to help with domestic issues and counseling for these families, without these services Police or Fire would have to step up to the plate and take on these extra challenges. The Human Services section is roughly 3% of the total budget, versus police and fire at 61%. A 15% reduction of human services budget is about $1,762,240 and that represents a 0.7% reduction in fire and police combined.  Miriam explained the city service as a human, police/fire department is the body and the library/arts/parks/human services are the heart and soul of the city.  She said “The body is an empty shell without the heart and soul”.  Our cities heart and soul is at stake. Children are already suffering from budget cuts of the arts in the school system, why cut it down outside of school as well?  
Miriam spoke at two of the community meetings and let her opinion be known. Unfortunately the community meetings are over but there is still the survey that can be completed online. Help get the word out about Human services as well as the arts and libraries. This is all a part of our campaign to LIVE UNITED, each opinion helps!
Here is the link to get involved.  https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/B22HH9M

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Teens getting involved to LIVE UNITED

by Jill Hilton, Marketing Intern

Youth United is a program of United Way of Pierce County.  This program is offered to High School students in the Pierce County area. The primary goal of Youth United is connect teens with volunteering opportunities. Youth can get information about upcoming events, guidelines about the lettering program, information on the leadership council and other activities Youth United sponsors on the Youth United Website. Students get involved from all over the local area from Puyallup to Graham to the greater Tacoma area.

Tara Adams and Sonia Xu are both seniors at Puyallup High School. Both girls are fantastic; they are best friends and the greatest support system on their volunteering conquest. These two young girls are inspirational, not only are they dedicated students but are also involved deeply in giving back to our community.  Between being Class President, Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA) President, volunteering at Good Sam’s and Youth United, these girls have a ton on their plate. I was interested in why they became so involved?  How they heard about the program with Youth United?

The girls said it is a good way to use their time. The experience is humbling, working with people who need their help makes them grateful for the things they have and where they come from.  During their freshman year of high school someone from United Way of Pierce County came into their after school club and told them about opportunities to volunteer with Youth United. The girls decided to get involved and have enjoyed it ever since. The girls have had fun getting involved and have encouraged their friends to join in with them to LIVE UNITED.  

One of the opportunities available to students in the Pierce County area is the Varsity Lettering program in community service. Students receive a Varsity Letter which is the same as that of a sports letter for their school. The students must complete a minimum of 145 hours in community service to qualify. Students have a set of rules that are followed in order to obtain the letter. Tara and Sonia have received a Letter each year they have participated. It is a great way to get involved and LIVE UNITED.

For more information on the Varsity Letter and events or activities that Youth United are involved in visit: http://www.uwpc.org/YouthUnited.htm.  Also LIKE us on Facebook!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Food Stamp Challenge

by Jill Hilton, Marketing Intern

The issues with food stamps have been debated for years: cut the benefits of food stamps, add requirements to obtaining food stamps, and limit what can be purchased by the recipients. Food Stamps are coupons or stamps that are distributed by the government for impoverish or low income families. For most of the families this is their way of life, they count on the money provided through the stamps to eat from week to week. The Wall Street Journal states since Hurricane Irene the rate of food stamps have increased to one in every seven Americans benefiting from food stamps. This number is part of a 5.5 % increase for 2011.

Everyone has an opinion of how food stamps should or should not be regulated. Currently the Senate is debating 1000 page‘farm bill’, the bill will cut up to $2 billion in loopholes that some states use to help award funds that would not otherwise be funded according to The Tacoma News Tribune. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is currently costing the government 78 billion dollars according to The Atlantic. This number may seem high but this resource helps to keep children feed.

In our local area of Pierce County, the maximum dollar amount being given to a single person on food stamps is $7 dollars a day. On average a family of four receive $500 dollars a month, if you do the math that is around $125 a week and then $17 dollars a day. That is three meals a day for four people, it seems like it might be do able until you are the one forced to decide if you get your child fruit snacks instead of actual fruit because it is cheaper. Children are being feed but the healthy optionsavailable are limited. The government shouldn’t be cutting the program but making changes to help provide these families with healthier options. Giving food discounts for fruits and vegetables.
A great way to put you into the shoes of another would be to take “The Food Stamp” challenge. Go to the grocery store; price out a list of basic needs for the week or just the day. Remember you only have $17 dollars for a family of four for three meals a day. I thought this challenge was do-able until I added up all the groceries, for three day's worth of breakfast and lunch and a single dinner meal, it was $48 dollars. That leaves $3 dollars for two more meals to figure out. This is one of the reasons people are not “Living the dream” on food stamps. It is easy to over spend and end up living on ramen noodles. I would like to see if anyone can actually make $17 dollars work for a family of four. Fill free to write a comment and tell us how you did it.