United Way of Pennsylvania
UWP Update - September 15, 2017

PA House volleys a new budget funding plan to the Senate, lacking Governor Wolf's support

On Wednesday, September 14, the House passed a plan to fund the PA budget passed earlier this year by a vote of 103-91. Fifteen republicans joined with democrats to vote against the plan, citing concerns with a lack of long-term budget balancing solutions and an over-reliance on borrowing. 

The plan which was passed was different from the Taxpayer budget which had been put forward by members of the House republican caucus shortly after Labor Day. One of the very favorable changes is that the proposal, now contained in HB 453, would protect the 2-1-1 funding which was included in the Department of Human Services General Government Operations line item. However, the funding remains in budgetary reserve by action of the Governor. 

The House funding plan relies on just shy of $900 million in fund transfers, or borrowing against special purpose funds, as well as $1 billion from a lump sum payment for selling the proceeds the Tobacco Settlement Fund will receive over ten years. It also includes anticipated revenue of $225 million from gambling expansion for online gambling and for existing casinos to open smaller facilities in other communities in PA. 

The Governor immediately condemned the House plan and said he would not support it. The Senate vowed to act quickly, and called members back to Harrisburg for a voting session day on Monday, September 18, but indicated they are studying what the House passed. There have been previous concerns expressed from the Senate about certain special fund transfers, as well as skepticism about the amount of unencumbered dollars which the House claims are available in some of these accounts. 

Meanwhile, the state Treasurer continued to try to increase the pressure via a statement continuing to take a hard line against authorizing any short-term lending to allow the commonwealth's General Fund to pay its bills. Many House Republicans contest this argument and return blame for the failure of the administration or the Treasurer to take action to address the deficit in the 2016-2017 budget. 

Although it is very positive that 2-1-1 funding has been preserved in the House, the state budget debate in Harrisburg is far from over. It will be important to watch how the Governor responds to the cash flow problem on Friday, September 15. If freezes or additional budgetary reserves are established, a threat exists for every area of the state budget. Those who recall the midyear freezes of the Rendell and Corbett administrations may also remember that these actually became permanent cuts. Any of these steps may also affect cash flow for some services. 

UWP continues to monitor all budget-related developments, and we evaluate our advocacy strategy, as well as whether to engage in a media strategy, on a daily basis. If and when we do issue a statement to media, members will be notified beforehand so you are prepared to handle local media calls. Please watch your email for additional updates. 
Federal policy issues moving into fall 

There are numerous federal updates to share as we move into fall regarding various advocacy items and issues of interest to United Ways. 

Last week, President Trump signed a continuing resolution that would allow for a short-term extension of government funding until December 8th.  This sets up a busy December for Congress, who are also attempting to rewrite the U.S. tax code by the end of the year

Additional movement that took place last week included an appropriations bill passed out of the Senate Labor, Health, Human Services, and Education committee. This legislation recommends approximately $164.1 billion in discretionary funding and includes funding for numerous United Way priorities. One of those priorities includes level funding for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (CCLC) Program, which deals directly with funding for afterschool programs.  This is significant because Trump's original budget proposal included a steep reduction in funding for 21st CCLC.  Many of the other United Way priorities received either level funding or a small increase, which UWW is pleased with.

Moving into the fall, there will be ample opportunities for calls to action on a number of priorities, as Congress will be busy discussing important matters. Tax reform is still a top priority and advocacy around EITC and the charitable deduction will be taking place in upcoming weeks. 

Additionally, there are various health care items on the agenda for the fall. These include ACA open enrollment starting November 1st and moving through December 15th. This is a much shorter period this year and funding has been drastically cut. UWW is engaged in outreach efforts and more information on that will be shared in the coming weeks. There is still talk about healthcare proposals, but more efforts have been around bipartisan efforts to stabilize private marketplaces. UWP staff is still involved with the healthcare cohort and will keep members updated on work around that issue.  Finally, President Trump declared the opioid epidemic a national emergency this past month.  While resources have been promised to address this concern, none have been provided to date. This is something impacting every community and we will continue to monitor any progress. We will keep membership apprised of any advocacy opportunities as they become available. 

This promises to be a busy end to the year with many issues still up in the air.  Please continue to work with us in providing advocacy outreach as calls to action come up! 
2-1-1s in PA participated in backup to Irma-affected 2-1-1s in Florida

During the Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma disasters, 2-1-1s across the country responded as a national network to support their colleagues in impacted areas. This shows how 2-1-1 can help in times of disaster and assure service is continuously available, even when call centers are directly impacted.

In the case of Hurricane Harvey, the state government of Texas limited the ability of 2-1-1s in Texas to transfer calls out of state, until late in the week of September 4. However, United Way Worldwide's 2-1-1 office asked for backup help to be on call, and many local 2-1-1s responded with offers of help to assist with phone calls and texts.

During Hurricane Irma, PA 2-1-1 Southwest was asked to back-up 2-1-1 Broward and received just-in-time training on the Broward database and handling their calls. As the storm worsened, PA 2-1-1 was asked about capacity to assist a second county and PA 2-1-1 South Central stepped up to the plate but was not activated. PA 2-1-1's southwest contact center was in fact activated to back-up 2-1-1 Broward, and this was expected to commence on August 13. 

For the first time, a 2-1-1 texting response was available during Irma (text IRMA to 898-211). 2-1-1s throughout the country, including PA 2-1-1, responded to text messages from Florida, Alabama and other states. System-wide, over 500 texts were received and answered 24/7. PA 2-1-1's operations director also provided assistance by taking shifts to respond to Irma texts. Questions ranged from water safety, where to get t food, in search of gas money to get back to Florida, determining whether a particular is safe, and how to volunteer or ship items to the impacted areas.

Bipartisan deal reached for federal CHIP reauthorization

The CHIP program was set to expire this year on September 30th. Reauthorization was a priority for the United Way network. This week, there was a bipartisan compromise announced by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) which would provide a 5-year funding extension for CHIP. Below is a statement from Steve Taylor, UWW, on the funding extension: 

"In a surprise bipartisan compromise announced yesterday, Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) unveiled a five-year funding extension for the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
We applaud these long-time CHIP champions for their leadership and commitment to protecting the healthcare coverage of 9 million children from working families across the U.S. As Sen. Hatch, has stated, this proposal not only provides uninterrupted funding for CHIP, but also provides certainty and increased flexibility for states to administer the program.

United Ways across the U.S. have advocated in support of CHIP since its inception in 1997. We are gratified for this important compromise and will work to help shepherd it the rest of the way through the process and to the President's desk for signature.
United Way Worldwide is committed to insuring every child in America has access to quality healthcare. We will fully support bipartisan efforts like this to achieve that goal."

UWP is pleased to see this reauthorization! Great work from the help of local United Ways advocating for CHIP over the last few months!

State revenue collections ahead for FY 2017-18

In the second month of FY 2017-18, more than $2.1 billion was collected in General Fund revenues.  This is a 5.6 percent increase, or $113.5 million, over the August 2016 General Fund collection total.  Year-to-date, Pennsylvania is running $226 million, or 5.7 percent, ahead of where it was through two months of FY 2016-17. 

The Sales and Use tax collections increased this fiscal year, compared to last, by 6.1 percent. State personal income tax collections were only up $6 million compared to August 2016. Corporation taxes, primarily the Corporate Net Income Tax, was up $23 million more in August 2017 compared to last August, and the state's August 2017 Realty Transfer Tax collections increased by 10 percent, or $5 million.   

For "sin taxes", the cigarette and other tobacco taxes brought in $17 million more than what was collected from the state last year.  Other "sin taxes", including alcohol and legalized gambling, along with the Inheritance Tax, were not noticeably different from the prior Fiscal Year.  Non-tax revenue brought in $42.9 million, which was more than double what the state collected in August 2016.

Constant Contact offers free trainings

Constant Contact provides numerous trainings throughout the year, including both in-person and live webinars. Below is a list of the upcoming webinars that may be of interest to you.

Enhance Your Email Marketing Strategy by Integrating Social Media
Monday, September 18th, 1:00-1:30PM

Automate Your Marketing and Increase Engagement
Tuesday, September 19th, 9:00-9:45AM (Pacific Time)

Content Marketing: What to Say and How to Say It
Wednesday, September 20, 1:00-2:00PM

Quick, Simple Tricks to Increase Your Open Rates
Monday, September 25, 1:00-1:30PM

Create an Effective Email Campaign
Thursday, September 28th, 1:00-1:30PM
There are many more training opportunities available each week.  To enroll for these webinars mentioned, or to identify other trainings that may be of interest, please click here. 

UW of Butler County interim Executive Director named 

Maryann Eisenreich has been hired to serve as the interim Executive Director of Butler County United Way. Kierston Hobaugh announced earlier this year that she would be leaving the position to pursue a new business opportunity.

Maryann is known to many local United Ways in the western part of the state, as she was instrumental in helping to raise the funds and secure community buy-in for 2-1-1 to expand in the Northwest region. She also previously served as a special assistant to Governor Tom Corbett.