Throughout the year, we supported communities in need by engaging in public policy and advocacy, while fighting to give all people the chance to provide for their families and save for the future.
Helping Lift Millions Out of Poverty
In our fight for financial stability, we strive to give every person the chance to provide for their families and save for the future. Integral to these efforts is our free tax-filing support. Through our MyFreeTaxes program, we help eligible people claim an Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The EITC is a refundable federal tax credit for lower-income workers that encourages and rewards employment. Each year, millions of Americans rely on the EITC to afford the basics like transportation to work, housing and food.
But another 7.5 million Americans are taxed into poverty each year, largely because they are ineligible for the EITC, or their EITC is too small. We’re committed to changing that at the national level so everyone can achieve financial stability. Last year, we fought to make the EITC’s expiring provisions permanent—and our hard work paid off. Congress passed a bipartisan tax deal in December, with a permanent extension of key improvements in the EITC and the low-income Child Tax Credit. The result: A better 2016 for some 16 million people living almost in poverty. And communities benefited, too. Broadly considered the most effective pro-work, anti-poverty tool, the EITC brings back billions of dollars to local economies.
Our success continued this year at the state level, with California expanding its state EITC and South Carolina enacting its own. Building on this momentum, we worked with Congress to consider expanding the EITC and lowering the age of eligibility to 21. Workers not raising children at home are currently shut out of the poverty-fighting impact of the EITC, and workers aged 21-24 in this group are completely ineligible. So, while the EITC is one of the most effective tools available to help working families keep their heads above water, more needs to be done to help Americans get the relief they need.
Igniting Change Where It’s Needed Most
The power that women leaders in United Way wield is irrefutable. Since 2002, they have given more than $1.5 billion to invest in local solutions that will last for generations to come. This year, more than 70,000 women leaders in over 165 communities and six countries worked to strengthen communities and improve lives. The women leaders of Sacramento serve as one example.
United Way California Capital Region’s Women United is a testament to what can happen when passion meets purpose. The group of 350 donors and supporters—including leaders from companies like Nationwide—helped local foster youth prepare for life. This year, the women leaders raised funds for special bank accounts that helped foster youth save for transportation, textbooks, rent and more; led life-skills workshops to help them manage their finances; and conducted trainings to help youth in need navigate the college system and prepare for job interviews.
Every day, Women United is helping people live better lives. Whether they’re empowering young girls to achieve their potential in Philadelphia, or helping to decrease the teen birth rate in Milwaukee, Women United leaders are igniting change where it’s needed the most.
Young Leaders Drive Community Change
A little help can go a long way. Just ask Michelle Augusty (pictured at left), a member of United Way of Metropolitan Nashville’s Young Leaders Society (YLS) steering committee. YLS is a global network of young professionals who are dedicated to creating lasting and local impact. Members connect to their communities—and each other—through professional development, educational opportunities, volunteerism and networking events.
Michelle and her committee provide strategic support for United Way’s programs and initiatives, like its “Stuff the Bus” event. The annual campaign unites community and corporate partners through collection drives, corporate challenges, field days, sort-a-thons and backpack deliveries for local schoolchildren in need. This year, 960 volunteers came together to give 9,635 students at nine public schools, 18 United Way family resource centers and 36 partner agencies backpacks full of school supplies, with 88 companies participating in the campaign. The supplies helped students begin the year with confidence and dignity, while also helping teachers begin teaching on the first day of school.
Stuff the Bus is one of countless initiatives YLS members are supporting across the globe. There are more than 170 YLS programs worldwide, with more than 58,900 members who are donating their time, skills and money to support those in need. Every day, YLS members are leveraging the power of United Way to connect, serve and grow, both personally and professionally. It’s one of the many ways United Way is helping people make a mark in their own backyard.
What a Difference a Day Makes
One day can make a significant impact. Just ask the tens of thousands of people who came together on June 21 to harness the volunteer spirit and improve the conditions of the communities in which they live. Held across the globe each year, “United Way Day of Action” inspires people to tackle specific challenges in their communities and introduce long-term solutions. From hosting food drives for the hungry and donating books to underfunded schools, to providing job training for youth and housing for those experiencing homelessness, each action contributes to stronger communities. The event is also an opportunity for companies to engage their employees through workplace campaigns.
In all corners of the world, companies are striving to “do good by doing well.” And that starts with employee engagement, a mission-critical strategy for finding and keeping great employees. Through United Way Day of Action, we make it easy for workers to be a part of the solutions that make a real difference in people’s lives. As a vehicle for employee volunteerism and a catalyst for corporate social responsibility, we provide the global reach, local expertise and cross-sector leadership needed to create lasting change. That was evident when 412 local United Ways across 21 countries brought community members and corporate employees from more than 70 Global Corporate Leadership partners together to take part in solving community problems on one day.
In Florida, United Way Suncoast worked with UPS volunteers to help end summer reading loss. Together, they delivered more than 600 books to 300 students. And Kimberly-Clark’s Depend® brand sponsored 223 projects in 65 communities, including leading hundreds of volunteers to upgrade a neighborhood with United Way of Summit County. With an education focus, United Way of Greater Chattanooga volunteers distributed free books and read to 600 local children; Fundación Dividendo por Colombia engaged corporate volunteers in early literacy work in four cities across the country; and in China, Dentsu Aegis Network partnered with the Shanghai Charity Foundation during a “One Day of Change” program, which saw 40 employee volunteers reading, playing literacy games and distributing boxes of school supplies to two kindergarten classes.
Other United Way volunteers supported health and wellness. In Canada, United Way Halton & Hamilton worked with a community health center to build a vegetable garden. Meanwhile, United Way Poland organized an Olympics for youth, and in Michigan, hundreds of people helped Heart of West Michigan United Way assemble more than 75,000 meals for local food pantries. Through these and other global campaigns, we introduced change that’s good for people, communities and business. None of it would have been possible without the help of our corporate partners, and the passion and commitment of our volunteers.
Did you know? This year, volunteers donated more than 20 million hours and raised more than $475 million throughout the United Way network.