United Way of Pennsylvania
UWP Update - October 27, 2017
Beautiful Erie! 
General Assembly delivers funding plan and all other components of the state budget to Governor Wolf
As of Thursday, all necessary bills to complete the FY 2017-2018 have been passed by both chambers and sent to the Governor. In public statements, the Governor's office reported that they need time to review all of the bills before deciding what action to take. 

The revenue plan which ultimately came together to fund the spending plan passed earlier this year relies heavily on some form of borrowing against the state Tobacco Settlement Fund, to achieve about $1.5 billion. There is very little new, re-curring revenue, but among those limited items are a new tax on consumer fireworks, a requirement for third-party vendors who sell online marketplaces to remit sales tax, and an expansion of gaming. The rest of the amount required comes from special funds transfers, and another transfer from a state medical malpractice insurance fund. 

This budget plan seems to thrive on hope that the first quarter increase in collections will continue, and make it easier to balance the budget next year. After months of back and forth, when many revenue ideas were explored and differences of opinion aired about how much of this budget plan must be new re-curring revenue versus a one-time shot in the arm, the attitude shifted to a sense that this was the best that could be accomplished. Legislators felt the budget needed to be brought to a closure to provide funding for the state-related universities who were threatening midyear tuition hikes if their state appropriations were still in limbo. 

This week's action included final passage of the fiscal code bill, which is HB 674. That bill includes language which implements the funds appropriated for statewide 2-1-1 earlier this year. The language mirrors HB 211 and SB 211. As of this publication, the Governor is still holding the 2-1-1 money among about $190 million that was placed in budgetary reserve this summer. If he enacts the full package, we would expect to see that money be released from budgetary reserve.

Call to action, upcoming UWP tax reform webinar as Congress gets ready to vote

Details are starting to emerge, and UWW reports that specific proposals for the bill include major changes for the charitable giving tax deduction which are projected to equate to a loss of up to $13.1 billion in charitable contributions across the country. United Ways are urged to respond to the call to action sent by UWP on Thursday, October 26 specific to the charitable giving deduction. 

UWP is planning a webinar for Wednesday, November 8 at 2pm to discuss this further and provide some advocacy tips for our membership and their boards on how to engage congressional members. Please join this webinar to plan how you can engage in your choice from a menu of advocacy strategies in concert with United Ways across PA. 

You can register for the webinar here.  We also encourage you to invite your boards and other volunteers who may be interested in the material being discussed.  
Consider joining the Pre-K for PA as a Supporting Organization

UWP encourages our United Way network to join as supporting organizations for the Pre-K for PA campaign.  UWP is now a principal partner with the campaign and thought with many of our members focusing on early childhood education initiatives, this is a great opportunity to stay updated on the work being done statewide. 

By signing on as a supporting organization to Pre-K for PA, you will be invited to special briefings and encouraged to participate in supporting the campaign's outreach, organized by region and sector. You will also receive occasional correspondence regarding campaign highlights and advocacy opportunities. This is a great way to stay involved and have the most up-to-date information to share with your community partners!  

If you are interested in signing on as a supporting organization, you can sign up here You can also send Maggie ( maggie@uwp.org ) your interest with the name of the best contact person at your United Way, as well as an email address for that person.

UWP's request for the PUC's Universal Service program public review 

UWP submitted what are known as "reply comments" to an open docket on the Universal Services fund programs after reviewing other stakeholder comments and participating in a roundtable of interested parties at the PUC in September. 

Based on comments and reaction to the proposal, UWP clarified its original request to specify that it was asking for utilities to have the option to partner with 2-1-1 and fund that work through their Universal Services fund dollars. UWP suggest that utilities be authorized to spend up to 5 percent of these funds to promote and support access to utility assistance programs. 
Universal services are funded by rate payer dollars. The current portfolio of PUC-required universal service programs includes payment programs intended to help reduce the size of monthly bills and make service more affordable; weatherization and usage reduction programs to assist low-income families in lowering their consumption and energy costs; referral programs to connect consumers with other assistance programs they may be eligible for; and hardship funds. Each utility in the state submits a new Universal Service plan every three years for approval by the commission. Utilities have flexibility in determining what strategies they want to use, but each of the major categories of assistance must be addressed. 

The PUC commissioners have opened the entire Universal Service program up for review and offered a public comment period. UWP expects this process to continue well into next year. 

UWP 2018 Annual Conference dates and location announced! 

We are happy to announce we have secured a location for our 2018 Annual Conference! UWP's Annual Conference and Membership Meeting will take place Wednesday, June 20th-Friday, June 22nd in Erie! We are very excited for the conference to be held at the Bayfront Sheraton, with picturesque views and tons of fun activities!  

We are working with the United Way of Erie to plan a memorable conference for you and are again working towards securing flex credits for attendees.  Please put these dates on your calendar and plan to come to another great conference!  Stay tuned for more details! 

Grants available for local United Ways to promote MyFreeTaxes

United Way Worldwide is seeking applications for United Way only MyFreeTaxes grantees. The first is an Innovation Grant with the purpose of increasing the number of MyFreeTaxes e-filers in your community and promoting MyFreeTaxes with at least two employer partners. The second is a Promotional Grant with the sole purpose of increasing the number of MyFreeTaxes e-filers in your community through marketing and communications.  

The application deadline is Monday, November 6, 2017

The complete RFPs and applications for each type of grant are available here

Direct care worker compensation study for PA professionals

A study commissioned by three Pennsylvania provider associations was released this week, concluding that direct service professional pay should be increased immediately to $15 per hour, and evenutally to $18 per hour. The full study is available here. It focuses on workers who provide supportive services to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities on a daily basis. 

The study characterizes the direct care professional sector as an "employment crisis" with 26 percent turnover on an annual basis and a shortage of workers for available openings. There is also an expected increase in demand due to longer life expectancy, the aging of baby boomers, and expansion of community support systems. 

The current average direct support professional wage is $11.50 per hour. The groups argue that an increase in compensation will reduce the reliance of this work force sector on public benefits, thereby eventually savings taxpayer dollars. It estimates that the cost of increasing wages to $15 per hour would cost $475 million, and to $18 per hour would cost $934 million. A significant portion of this cost would be reimbursed under Medicaid, they argue. Taxpayer savings are projected from less costs for overtime, reduced employer costs related to turnover, and public benefit savings. 

PA's unemployment rate declines slightly

PA's unemployment rate declined slightly in September, which was mostly due to more people leaving the workforce.  The rate declined from 4.9 percent to 4.8 percent, with 15,000 people leaving the workforce.  A year ago, the unemployment rate was 5.5 percent.  Since then, 40,000 people left the workforce, with only 8,000 being employed.  While this is a significant decline, the state's unemployment is still higher than the national rate, which is 4.2 percent.