By John Wilgers, President & CEO, Greater Twin Cities United Way
As the holiday season approaches, I want to thank you for being a changemaker. Your partnership — whether it’s as a donor, corporate partner, advocate, nonprofit partner or volunteer — is helping address our region’s biggest challenges and makes our work possible.
As I look back at 2022, I’m proud of the impact we’ve made together. Our collective work to address racial disparities, support immediate community needs and transform inequitable systems is having an impact on hundreds of thousands of people in our region.
Reflecting on the past year, here are some highlights of the impact you made possible.
Alongside our partners, we work to eliminate socio-economic and racial disparities in our region so that all people can thrive, regardless of their income level, race or place of residence. In April, we awarded $12.1 million to 90 nonprofits aligned with this vision.
This funding includes:
- Multi-year grants for nonprofits focused on equitable access to housing, food, education and the workforce.
- Grants for partnerships between schools and businesses providing purpose-driven work experiences and increased pay for youth through Career Academies.
- Grants to support training in trauma-sensitive care for early childhood education providers through our new 80×3: Resilient from the Start innovation initiative.
Trauma-Sensitive Early Childhood Education
According to Wilder Research, an estimated 12,000 three-year-olds in the Twin Cities have experienced trauma, which can have long-lasting effects on their brain development.
To help transform the early childhood education system, this spring we launched 80×3, our new early childhood education initiative, including $1.2 million in grants to nine local early child care centers to build their capacity in trauma-sensitive caregiving and to help families navigate community resources.
Research shows trauma-sensitive care can help children grow their resiliency, and a wide body of evidence demonstrates long-lasting benefits of early intervention that follow children into adulthood with higher educational attainment and higher wages. Thank you to our 80×3 donors and corporate partners, including Tim and Liz Welsh, 3M, and Securian, who have made this work possible.
24/7 Support via 211 and 988
In 2022, our 211 resource helpline continued referring callers to resources 24 hours a day, from mothers seeking child care options to families looking for assistance in putting food on the table to young adults needing a place to stay and more.
We also continued our 211 partnership with the State of Minnesota to help people access RentHelpMN, the state’s COVID-19 emergency rental assistance program. Over the 18 months of our contract, 211 answered over 377,000 calls from people across the state experiencing housing instability, and RentHelpMN provided nearly $450 million in rent and utility payments to qualified applicants.
We launched a new partnership with Minnesota State that leverages 211 to support over 340,000 college students in meeting their basic needs. This new texting program went live this fall – learn more in this WCCO story.
Also, this year, the national Suicide and Crisis Lifeline updated its number to 988, making it easier for callers to access suicide prevention and mental health crisis support. Our United Way 988 call center staff answered thousands of calls this year, providing compassionate care and safety plans when they were needed most.
Systems Change through Advocacy
Our advocacy team was busy this year making progress on issues important to our community, including early childhood education, housing stability and addressing the benefits cliff.
- The benefits cliff occurs when a small increase in household earnings results in a public benefit, such as SNAP or WIC, quickly tapering or phasing out, causing many families to lose progress financially. We made significant progress toward increasing awareness of this issue at the legislature, and we will continue advocating for a solution in 2023.
- We also advanced policies that support a strong early childhood education sector through early learning scholarship funding, strengthening the Child Care Assistance Program and more. In partnership with the Start Early Funders Coalition, we co-hosted the Early Childhood Legislative Briefing as well as Advocacy for Children Day Rally, bringing awareness to this issue.
- To advance housing stability, our staff testified on the importance of investing in bonding to increase the construction and preservation of affordable housing, to help more people access safe, stable housing.
We’ll be announcing our 2023 advocacy legislative priorities in December. In the meantime, consider joining our Advocacy Network to stay informed.
Looking Ahead to 2023
Thank you for being a part of the changemaker movement this year. I hope you and your loved ones have a joyous and restful holiday season, and I look forward to the impact we’ll make together in 2023.