United Way of Pennsylvania          LIVE UNITED
UWP Update - September 28,  2018
United Way of Bucks County Pre-K Counts teachers attend training and work with S TEM kits from Suez Water Technology. 

UWP Board approves spending plan for first 2-1-1 state appropriation

At its meeting on Wednesday, September 19, 2018, the United Way of Pennsylvania Board of Directors voted to approve a spending plan for $750,000 in state funding which was appropriated in the FY 2017-2018 budget. The purpose of the funding, according to Act 44 of 2017, is to provide 2-1-1 statewide 24 hours per day, to expand access through text, chat and mobile as well as the internet, and to disburse funds to regional providers for satisfying 2-1-1 quality assurance standards used by similar programs in other states.

United Way of Pennsylvania made $450,000 available to regional 2-1-1s. A portion of these funds was distributed by population, and the remainder was allocated based on regional responses to our competitive application process. These funds will be used to increase the capacity of the 2-1-1 centers to handle calls and make sure that 75% of calls are answered within 90 seconds. The funds will also strengthen the statewide resource database, with expectations that 90% of the top 25 used referrals in each county are updated every six months. Several regions will increase or implement followup to 2-1-1 customers in order to determine whether they received help through their referrals and were satisfied with their 2-1-1 experience.

The remaining $300,000 will be used for statewide coordination of 2-1-1. This includes an investment toward completing the VisionLink database conversion to a new version called COS-2 with increased data-sharing capability and better search functionality. The state office will also execute a contract for statewide texting services using these funds. An independent quality assurance company will also be hired to place a certain number of secret shopper calls to each 2-1-1 center every month. The QA service will provide call scoring which can be used for calibration and coaching to increase the consistency of the service statewide. Some funds have also been allocated to matching grants which are intended to bring other community partners to the table to get 2-1-1 up and running for the counties who do not have access.

United Way of PA and PA 2-1-1 are grateful for broad, bi-partisan support for 2-1-1 which led to this first-ever PA appropriation to 2-1-1. We continue to look for opportunities to strengthen partnerships with various state agencies who currently have some element of information and referral or disaster response within their mission.

If you have questions about the allocation of funds in your 2-1-1 region, please contact Kristen Rotz (krotz@uwp.org) or Anne Fogoros (Afogoros@uwp.org). 

UWP members weigh in on policy interests ahead of priority-setting process for 2019-2020  
I want to thank our members who completed our public policy member survey. The information collected was helpful in helping UWP determine which public policy priorities we should focus our efforts on in the 2019-2020 legislative session.
We had 13 responses to the survey and 7 of respondents are from a United Way actively engaged in advocacy. For the 6 respondents who were not actively engage in advocacy, the most common reason was too few staff; however, over half of the respondents are interested in becoming more engaged in advocacy. For those United Ways who are currently engaged, there is a variety of ways in which they are participating in advocacy including engaging in social networking, meeting with legislators, taking part in lobbying visits, or holding stakeholder conversations around issues of importance to the network.
Breaking down responses to actually policies, it seems the top areas of importance (in order) for education include: 1. Pre-k and Head Start funding; 2. Affordable high quality child care; 3. Education and workforce development opportunities; 4. Opportunities for out-of-school time; 5. State and federal funding for the child care development block grant; and 6. Community schools/community supports to students.
The top policy priorities for financial stability include: 1. Income policies to preserve and improve programs such as EITC, VITA, and SNAP; 2. Job training and career development policies; 3 & 4. Supporting access to affordable healthcare and expanding access to vital health care programs (i.e. Medicaid and CHIP); 5. Improving PA's affordable housing options; and 6. Maintaining laws to prohibit predatory lenders.
All respondents were also supportive of continued efforts to support PA 2-1-1. Some policy areas our LUWs are involved in include early learning, preventing homelessness, raising the income for people with disabilities, high school graduation, expansion of hunger programs, family stability programs, workforce development, supporting veterans, and preserving the charitable deduction.
This survey has been extremely valuable as we determine the policy priorities on most importance to our network for the next legislative session. We will be working with the UWP public policy committee to finalize our policy priorities and policy agenda in the coming months and we will share the final version with members when available. If you did not have the opportunity to participate in the survey and still would like to weigh in on issues of importance to your United Way, please contact Maggie.

Farm Bill and SNAP Update

Our network has been actively engaging in advocacy around SNAP, which is found within the Farm Bill. We have had several meeting with our congressional meetings, participated in op-eds and have been collecting stories of SNAP beneficiaries. Both the House and Senate have passed versions of the bill, which are vastly different, and required a conference committee to be formed to work out final details. The United Way network has largely been supportive of the bipartisan Senate version on the bill and are hopeful this will be the final version to come out of committee.
September 30th is the deadline to finalize the Farm Bill and it seems it will come and go without a resolution at this time. An update from the committee- The "Big Four" (Chairman Roberts, Ranking Member Stabenow, Chairman Conaway and Ranking Member Peterson) met yesterday without coming to final resolution on any titles of the Farm Bill, including the nutrition title which reauthorizes SNAP.  The consensus coming out of the meeting was that Congress will look to vote on the final Farm Bill conference report after the midterm elections in November. Farm bill negotiators will continue to hash out the differences in October in the hopes that they can reach a final compromise and be ready for a vote soon after the election (the reality is that this could slip to later in November or to December).  Despite the lack of resolution, Congress does not plan to pass a temporary extension after the Farm Bill expires on September 30th.  That said, SNAP will continue to operate in its current form and participants will have uninterrupted access to SNAP benefits.
So it will be timely and necessary for our advocacy to continue well into November. Yesterday, UWP met with Congressman Glenn Thompson, who is a conferee in the committee working on the Farm Bill, and voiced our concerns with the House version and our alignment with the bipartisan Senate version. We will continue to have these meetings with congressional members and ask our House members to support the Senate version, as well as ask their leadership to support it. Please help us continue the fight for SNAP by advocating with your congressional members, using social media to elevate the needs of SNAP recipients and the facts surrounding SNAP, and continuing op-eds to help build awareness. We have materials available to help you with your advocacy on the members' only section of the website here. You can also reach out to Maggie with any questions.
We will continue the good fight to make sure SNAP is protected in the Farm Bill and update you with any developments.

Learn more about General Assistance 
On July 18, 2018, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court voted 7-0 to repeal Act 80 of 2012, which eliminated General Assistance (GA) that year. This cash assistance program provides a minimal income support for desperately poor individuals with serious disabilities, people fleeing domestic violence, and individuals in active drug treatment for limited periods of time. The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services has already started taking applications for GA again.

Community Legal Services of Philadelphia is working to get the word to social service providers who work with the poorest Pennsylvanians, as General Assistance is for people with extremely low incomes or no income at all.
Important information about General Assistance is available here at the Community Legal Services of Philadelphia website. They are also having an information webinar on October 18, 2018 at 2:00pm that is free and open to all. You can register here.  

Governor Wolf launches Task Force to Focus on Needs of Three and Younger 
The Wolf Administration announced the "Ready to Start" task force which will focus on formulating strategy to address health, human services, and education policy for children three years of age and younger.
The task force will identify themes and options informed by stakeholder engagement and analysis of current programming to make future policy recommendations. They will emphasize the three following principles: 
  • Improving health outcomes of infants, toddlers, and their families
  • Strengthening the home environment for infants, toddlers, and their families
  • Preparing infants and toddlers for future school success 
The task force will host six regional listening sessions across Pennsylvania in October and November. The listening sessions will be led by professionals focused on early learning and child development. 

To read the full press release, please visit the administration's website here
Bring AmeriCorps VISTA resources to your community! 

UWP is excited to offer small and medium sized United Ways the opportunity to partner with VISTA through UWP. UWP can aggregate VISTA sites to prepare a more viable VISTA project to CNCS funders.

AmeriCorps VISTA members  are volunteers who commit at least one year to work to fight poverty in local communities. They join to build capacity in the community by creating new programs or expanding already existing ones. United Ways who are looking to build capacity in the following areas may benefit from a VISTA member:

  • Economic Opportunity: Safe and affordable housing (including legal aid strategies to support safe and affordable housing) and employment training and access 
  • Education: Improved school readiness and academic performance in K-12 schools, increased graduation rates, and college enrollment and retention 
  • Healthy Futures: Improved access to nutritious foods and health care, and response to the opioid epidemic 
  • Veterans and Military Families: Providing service to veterans and military families
If you're interested in learning more about the VISTA program, please register to join our webinar on October 23rd, 2018 at 3:30pm. If you are unable to make it, please contact Amanda directly to discuss the project. 

We are currently accepting project to add to our portfolio. The portfolio will be submitted in December. To successfully submit, we are asking interested parties to submit concepts for VISTA program sites by November 21st, 2018. You can submit your project concept here.

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