Happy Holidays from United Way of Pennsylvania! From left to right, top to bottom: Maggie Livelsberger, Brandie Trostle, Kristen Rotz, Amanda Barbarich, and Anne Fogoros. Not pictured, our newest employee: Emily Aubele who joined us just this week!
UWW hosting webinar to answer questions about MyFreeTaxes.com changes in 2019 and 2020
UWP staff recently had a conversation with UWW regarding the announced changes to the MyFreeTaxes.com program. As was previously announced, H&R Block will be ending their two-year sponsoring relationship with UWW and MyFreeTaxes.com in 2019.
Despite this, the changes to MyFreeTaxes.com for 2019 will preserve this tool for households earning less than $66,000 to file their taxes for free online. The most important change will be the absence of the MyFreeTaxes.com Helpline. Instead of the Helpline, UWW plans to release a robust online FAQ that will help filers address most of their questions. For filers that still need additional assistance beyond the FAQ, there will be an escalation path that will end with a VITA trained professional counseling them.
UWW reports that only 10% of filers used the Helpline in the 2018 tax season. Most callers were interested in general information. Roughly, only 2.5% of all filers required a VITA trained individual to assist them.
At this point in time, it is anticipated that H&R Block will continue to provide the software as an in-kind donation, but will withdraw all other financial support as of 2020. UWW is searching for partners to support MyFreeTaxes.com for 2020. H&R Block has partnered to fully fund MyFreeTaxes.com for two years, prior to this other community partners supported the program.
UWW will be hosting a webinar to address this information and answer questions. The Webinar is January 17th, 2018 at 2:00 PM. You can register for the webinar at
Ready to Start task force announces findings
Earlier this fall, the Wolf Administration established the Ready Start Task Force to develop a four-year framework of strategies to address health, human services, and education policy for infants and toddlers in Pennsylvania. The task force announced their initial findings early this week. The Governor's budget secretary also listed the recommendations of this task force among Wolf's priorities for the next state budget.
These themes and findings were developed from feedback the Task Force received from six regional listening sessions with stakeholders representing health care, human services, education, research, businesses and employers, foundations, and research organizations.
Approximately 150 stakeholders participated in these sessions that took place from October through mid-December. The stakeholders were asked to provide feedback based on three guiding questions, which include:
- How can we improve health outcomes of infants, toddlers, and their families?
- How can we strengthen the home environment for infants, toddlers, and their families?
- How can we prepare infants and toddlers for future school success?
The initial findings include a need to:
* Ensure access to high-quality care for all children and families, especially those with the greatest needs;
* Improve system quality and capacity;
* Improve coordination and alignment of services and supports;
* Prioritize outreach, education, and awareness, including building meaningful partnerships with parents, families, and communities;
* Address the needs of the whole child and whole family through comprehensive supports, including those for mental and behavioral health;
* Help infants and toddlers get a strong start for school through early literacy and other evidence-based programs.
You can read more about the initial findings here. A final report will be completed in early 2019, which will lay out a four-year framework for advancing the well-being of Pennsylvania's infants and toddlers, as well as their families.
The Administration has also invited the public to share their ideas through an online feedback form. If you would like to weigh-in, this form is still available.
Trump signs bipartisan Farm Bill while proposing new rules to limit state flexibility regarding SNAP work requirements
Congress agreed to and passed a final bipartisan Farm Bill! UWP and many of our members advocated on behalf of SNAP, which is an element in the larger Farm Bill. We are happy to announce the final bill resembles the bipartisan SNAP provisions in the original Senate bill that we were advocating for. The bill preserves access to nutritious food by keeping the current SNAP eligibility requirements and work provisions, and maintains state flexibility. The bill also makes incremental changes that support work by strengthening the SNAP education & training program and its connection to employers and existing workforce infrastructure. The new Farm Bill improves program integrity by modernizing verification systems and instituting checks to prevent duplicate receipt of benefits across states. The House voted in support of bill
and the Senate approved the bill with a vote of
This week President Trump signed the Farm Bill, but was vocal about his displeasure with the lack of stricter work requirements imposed on SNAP beneficiaries. Thus, the Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture proposed a rule that would restrict state's ability to exempt work-eligible adults from having to obtain stable employment to receive SNAP benefits. Currently, states are able to waive the work-requirements imposed on 18-49 year-olds who do not have any dependents. States are also allowed to grant benefit extensions for 15-percent of their work-eligible adult population without a waiver. The new proposed rule would take away the state's ability to issue waivers unless a city or county has an unemployment rate of 7-percent or higher. The rule would also forbid states from granting waivers for geographic areas larger than a specified jurisdiction and would take away the ability to "stockpile" the unused percent of their 15% exemptions.
While the passage of the bipartisan Farm Bill is a big win for the network and the hard work we have put into advocating to protect SNAP, we may need to activate again based on this new rule. We are awaiting more clarification on the impact of this rule and an advocacy strategy moving forward. As we receive more information we will pass it along to our members.
In the meantime, we cannot diminish the
victory for the children, seniors, people with disabilities, veterans and working Americans who are using SNAP to keep healthy food on the table.I
t is also important to thank our House and Senate members who voted in support of SNAP. UWW put together a
that includes social media posts and template thank you emails that you can adapt to thank your local congressional members. If you click on the links above, in the vote count, you will be able to see which of your legislators voted in support of the bipartisan bill.
We would like to thank all of our members who helped us advocate for SNAP is past year! You were an integral part of the success and we appreciate all your hard work!
Governor's budget secretary paints optimistic picture in midyear budget briefing
Even while highlighting a potential need for supplemental appropriations to address increased cost in the 2018-2019 budget, PA Budget Secretary Randy Albright expressed optimism that PA will end the year with a modest surplus. In contrast, the Independent Fiscal Office's five year budget outlook identified potential for next year's budget to have a gap of $1.7 billlion based on the use of more than $1 billion in one-time budget fixes to balance the 2018-2019 budget.
Cost overruns which may requires supplemental appropriations include high overtime costs in the state prison system due to the lockdowns which have been imposed after drug smuggling activities made inmates and guards ill. In the Department of Human Services, costs for long term care are increasing, which is attributed to Pennsylvania's aging population.
Albright also addressed the Governor's budget priorities for the second term, which include:
- Sustained investment in education
- Implement Ready to Start taskforce recommendations to address health, human services, and education policy for infants and toddlers
- Create a fairer and more competitive business tax climate
- Reduce or restrain spending to balance budgets and build Rainy Day reserve.
The UWP Board met on December 12 and took several important actions, including the approval of UWP's legislative priorities for the 2019-2020 legislative session. These priorities have been previewed for members, and will be publicly launched in January.
UWP is pleased to welcome the following new members to the board:
- Julie DeSeyn, Vice President, Community Impact, United Way of Southwestern PA
- Dan LaVallee, Director of Government and Business Relations, Government Programs, UPMC Health Plan, & Volunteer, United Way of Southwestern PA
- Leslie Osche, Butler County Commissioner
- Will Price, Executive Director, United Way of Venango County
- Jennifer Reis, Manager, Government Affairs, PA Chamber of Business and Industry
- Sue Suter, President and CEO, United Way of Lancaster
The Board also elected the following officers to serve a one year term:
Chair of the Board: Tammy Gentzel, Executive Director, Centre County United Way (second year as chair)
Vice Chair of the Board: Anthony (TJ) Andrisano, Shareholder, Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney (second year as Vice Chair)
Treasurer: Michael Albert, President & CEO, United Way of Monroe County (second year as Treasurer)
Assistant Treasurer: Lucy Zander, Executive Director, United Way of Carlisle and Cumberland County (first year as assistant treasurer)
Census resources available for Local United Ways
The U.S. Census counts every resident in the United States. Article I, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution mandates that this occur every 10 years. The information the Census collects helps determine how more than $675 billion of federal funding is distributed to states and communities each year.
Several local United Ways are starting to reach out to UWP as local full county committees are formed. L
ynne Newman of the U.S. Census Bureau joined us in August to discuss plans for the 2020 census. Topics she covered included:
- Different ways to respond to the U.S. Census
- Census office locations in PA
- How and why to form complete count committees locally
- Reaching out to low response populations
- U.S. Census confidentiality
- Recruiting U.S. Census workers
The recording of the webinar we hosted is available
here on demand
for our UWP members. The Powerpoint Presentation and handouts are available through
If you want to see how Census Participation is in your community, check out the
to see what the 2010 count looked like!
Emily Aubele hired as PA 2-1-1 Special Projects Manager
UWP is excited to share that PA 2-1-1 has a new special projects manager who will assist Anne Fogoros, PA 2-1-1's Operations Director, with data analytics, implementation of priority projects and advancing a collaborative approach among PA 2-1-1 centers. Emily Aubele started on December 18. She can be reached by email at
Emily's professional background includes over 25 years in higher education administration which began at the University of Mt. Union in Alliance, Ohio, continuing on to the University of Pittsburgh in Oakland, PA; and most recently she spent the past 14 years at the Venango Campus of Clarion University as the Director of Student Affairs and the Assistant Director of the campus.
Throughout her career, Emily has been responsible for developing, implementing, and evaluating initiatives designed to increase student academic success and satisfaction with the college environment. She has developed numerous professional training series for faculty and staff, and has worked with community organizations to help create staff development and training programs. Emily completed her Bachelor's degree at Westminster College, her Master's at Kent State University, and her Doctorate at the University of Pittsburgh.
In her free time, Emily enjoys travelling with her family, rehabbing old houses, and hanging out with her two-year-old nephew and best friend, Drake.
UWP calls for speakers for 2019 conference
United Way of Pennsylvania will be hosting the 2019 Statewide Conference in State College, PA June 5th-7th, 2019. We're opening up opportunities for our member United Ways and other interested parties to submit ideas for presentations. Both members and non-members can use our 2019 Conference Speaker Form to submit their concepts.
We seek presenters to share leading-edge ideas, inspire enlightening discussions, and teach relevant skills to local United Ways. The goals of the United Way of PA Conference are:
- Provide local United Way staff with practical and up-to-date information, training and education on topics of interest to UWP members.
- Provide members and non-member speakers who have subject matter expertise the opportunity to increase their exposure in the community.
- Provide high quality, knowledgeable speakers to UWP members.
- Facilitate the professional and personal development and growth of our local United Ways staff.
Your input is valued and will be carefully considered. We appreciate all submissions and if you are not selected for this upcoming program year, we welcome you to submit again for the following year. Any questions can be directed to Amanda Barbarich.
Clean Slate legislation Clean Up Project
Last legislative session clean slate legislation was passed in Pennsylvania. This legislation allows for first-degree misdemeanors to be sealed after a certain amount of time has passed. The implementation of Clean Slate begins on December 26th.
Many people have questions about this new law and how it may impact them. For that reason, the Pennsylvania Bar Association (PBA) and Community Legal Services has teamed up to create the Clean Slate Screening Project. This project allows Pennsylvanians to sign up for screening and advice either by calling the PBA or putting their information in to a form at
. The PBA is currently recruiting lawyers who CLS will train on January 7th and who then will provide free legal screening and advice. These lawyers will not be providing representation on expungement or sealing petitions if the person qualifies, but will direct them to potential legal help if needed, or inform them of whether the Clean Slate legislation will automatically seal their records.
Please help us spread the word about the Clean Slate Screening Project and direct interested individuals to the web address above.