Financial Wellness Partnership Update
December 2020
United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona is moving forward with a monthly newsletter focused on financial wellness topics. We hope that these updates can help you share data, learn new information, and build stronger systems to support individuals and families across Southern Arizona.

In this month's newsletter, learn about the EITC participation gap and how you can help close it, the latest on eviction prevention efforts, and more.
Updates and Research
Helping Families Navigate the EITC
For many working families, their yearly tax refund is key to financial stability. Families depend upon these large lump sums to help them catch up on rent, pay off bills, or cover education and medical expenses. Most low- or moderate-income working families receive the largest share of their refund through the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Analysts often call the EITC our single most important tool for reducing poverty. According to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), the EITC lifted 5.6 million people – including 3 million children – out of poverty in 2018. The average EITC for a family with children was $3,191 in 2017. Research highlighted by CBPP has also linked the EITC with better health outcomes, improved school performance, and higher earnings in adulthood.
Unfortunately, estimates suggest that as many as 20% of eligible taxpayers miss out on receiving the EITC. A 2020 report by ChildTrends notes that qualifying Hispanic families have historically been the least likely to know about or receive the EITC. Especially vulnerable are those not already connected to public benefits systems such as SNAP or those without trusted contacts to help them navigate filing, determine eligibility, and access resources in languages other than English. 

Ensuring that families receive their full tax refund is incredibly important this year. To help, United Way is pleased to announce a new partnership with We are working with to replicate the VITA experience virtually - free, one-on-one assistance from real, live IRS-certified tax preparers. This online system will help us reach more people, process returns more efficiently, and ensure the health and safety of our volunteers and community.
Interested in expanding the reach and impact of the EITC this tax season?

  • Learn more about this year’s VITA program on the United Way website

  • Volunteer with us – trainings for tax preparers, team support specialists, and other roles start in January 2021

Costs of COVID-19 Evictions
The National Low-Income Housing Coalition and Innovations for Justice program at the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law recently collaborated to calculate potential public costs of the looming eviction cliff. Their report, Costs of COVID-19 Evictions, factors in expenses related to emergency shelter, inpatient medical care, foster care, and juvenile delinquency for evicted renters, should millions of those individuals lose their houses. The report notes that nearly 1 in 6 renters were behind on payments in late October. In Arizona, their sources estimate at least 121,372 households to be at risk of eviction, with a potential cost of $1.1 billion. Moreover, certain researchers anticipate more than twice as many households will be affected, at more than double that cost.
Black and Latino renters, renters with a high school education or less, and low-income renters were all more likely to report being behind on rent in October 2020. More information in the full report - click image above.
Protecting our most vulnerable neighbors during this challenging time is essential. United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona recently joined an effort led by Family Housing Resources and 23 local organizations in requesting key actions for tenants and property owners from Governor Ducey. Specifically, the letter recommended extending the eviction moratorium by three months, increasing investments in rent relief, and allocating additional funds for the Rental Property Owners Preservation Fund.

Read more about the state of housing and local eviction prevention efforts:

Poverty and Urban Stress Report
City of Tucson founded 1775
The City of Tucson recently released a new Poverty and Urban Stress Report, which updates information from the 2012 report about poverty, income, race, education, and crime. The income section includes figures relating to the self-sufficiency standard for Arizona and Pima County, along with median household income data by ward and census tract.

In addition to indicators by ward, demographic StoryMaps, and neighborhood vulnerability data, the report also links to mapping tools, visualizations, and an interactive data hub for researchers, residents, and community partners.
Meet a Financial Wellness Partner
Our Family Services
Melissa Durazo, Homeless Prevention Case Manager
The mission of Our Family Services is to eliminate homelessness and strengthen the community by providing stability in times of crisis, linking people to resources, supporting social connection, engaging neighbors, and combating systemic inequities through policies and advocacy.

Our Family Services is a United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona partner on the Siemer Family Stability Program, which enhances educational opportunities for school-aged children by preventing family homelessness and reducing school instability. In 2019, this program helped 40 local families stay safely housed, and three quarters of that group increased their household income.
Melissa Durazo Our Family Services
How did you end up working with the Siemer Family Stability Program at Our Family Services?
Before I began working for Our Family Services, I already had deep respect for the agency and what they do for the community. While working for a different agency, I had referred many of my then clients to Our Family Services because of the work they do. When I saw the opening for the position for Homeless Prevention Case Manager I applied and am now happy to be able to work for an agency that believes in the same philosophies as I do. 
What are your responsibilities with the Siemer Family Stability Program?
As a Homeless Prevention Case Manager, I work directly with families from intake to exit which allows me to establish an ongoing relationship with each family and also serves as a foundation for positive change. I develop individualized service plans with the families to assist in eliminating barriers and ensure families become and/or remain stably housed. Some of the ways I assist in eliminating barriers include serving as a liaison between various agencies, connecting to public assistance, employment, and/or vocational agencies and follow through to ensure families access the services they qualify for. 
What has been the most inspiring thing you have seen or learned in your work?
The resilience of our families always amazes me. They have been through so much and continue to have the strength to overcome and succeed. When you see a family succeed and get back to a path of self-sufficiency, it keeps you going, it’s motivating. I also enjoy being involved and able to make an impactful difference in a way that is meaningful and important.

What is your favorite thing about living in Southern Arizona?
I love that Tucson has a diverse population and is rich in culture. I also enjoy the Southern Arizona night sky. 
Resource Corner
Woman peeks over a book in a library surrounded by books
Reading List
Funding Opportunities
2021 CORE Grants - Community Foundation of Southern Arizona; applications due 1/15/20

Job Opportunities
Computer with screen showing a web conference and a coffee mug nearby
Additional Information

What Tenants Need to Know During COVID-19 – Robust list including rental assistance, eviction protection/moratorium, and legal assistance resources compiled by Pima County

COVID-19 Assistance for Pascua Yaqui community members - Funds available to support burial expenses, housing costs, and distance learning equipment for Pascua Yaqui

Pima County COVID-19 Testing Sites – Locations and times for free testing, testing by appointment, walk-up testing, and more updated frequently

AZDHS COVID-19 Website – Latest updates, closure and re-opening announcements, and data dashboard

2-1-1 – Hotline for information about COVID resources or COVID questions for Arizona residents
The Financial Wellness Partnership seeks to improve the financial wellness of individuals and families by increasing accessibility to effective services, resources, and opportunities, and by influencing policy to
develop equitable, people-centered systems that support financial wellness.

View past newsletters and learn more about our programs here: United Way Financial Wellness

If you have questions or suggestions for future newsletters, please contact Lisa Floran, Senior Director of Financial Wellness Initiatives at United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona: