Thank Your Elected Officials in Congress for Protecting Access to VITA

Congress passed the Taxpayer First Act and made the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program permanent!

Say “thank you” to your elected officials for protecting free, high-quality tax preparation for hardworking Americans.

The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program was created 50 years ago as a demonstration pilot. When the President signs the Taxpayer First Act, VITA will be codified, and millions of taxpayers can count on this critical program for many tax seasons to come. VITA sites in every state across the country prepared over 1.5 million tax returns for low- and moderate-income Americans in 2019 bringing back $1.8 billion to communities.

You can thank your elected officials in Congress for protecting access to VITA for millions of taxpayers and urge them to increase investments in the program by clicking here

 

Press Release:  Legislation To Make VITA Permanent Passes Congress – Heads To President

For Immediate Release: June 17, 2019 –  Legislation To Make VITA Permanent Passes Congress – Heads To President
On Thursday, June 13 Congress passed a bill that will make the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program permanent. The bill, H.R. 3151 – The Taxpayer First Act, will now head to the President to be signed into law. On June 13th, over 60 United Way advocates visited Capitol Hill to advocate for key tax priorities including expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for workers not raising kids at home and young people ages 21 to 24. United Way of Forsyth County, Chief Impact Officer , Debbie Wilson, was among those advocating and she notes, “As the United Way of Forsyth County continues to fight poverty in our community, the EITC is very important; just last year $51.6 million in refunds came back into our community”

The passage of this legislation is a major win for the United Way network, and for millions of low and moderate income Americans.

VITA started 50 years ago, and since 2008 it has been classified as a demonstration pilot program – requiring an authorization from Congress every year. Now, the program will be permanently authorized.

380 United Ways fund, operate, or support VITA programs in their communities. And the VITA program as a whole prepared returns for 1.3 million people, bringing back $1.9 billion dollars to the pockets of working families in 2018.

Through VITA, IRS-certified volunteer tax preparers help individuals that earn less than $55,000 a year to claim refundable tax credits—the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC). Recipients of these credits use the boost in income to pay for things like reliable transportation to work, childcare, or groceries. Children in families that receive the EITC tend to better in school, have a better chance of going to college and experience better health outcomes.

60 network leaders, many of whom represent VITA United Ways, were on the Hill on Thursday, June 13th as a part of the United Way Tax Policy Forum and Capitol Hill Day. They were there to advocate for this legislation, and to expand the refundable tax credits for many of the same folks who are VITA clients.

Legislation aimed at making the VITA program permanent has been introduced multiple times over many years. In some cases, those bills passed one chamber of Congress but never made it across the finish line.

By Caitlan Arenas Martinez

For more information about the United Way, visit www.forsythunitedway.org

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United Way of Forsyth County brings the community and its resources together to solve problems that no one organization can address alone.

Press Release:  United Way of Forsyth County today announced that 46,354 Winston Salem, Forsyth County residents have saved over $5,000,000.00 on their prescription medications, thanks to its partnership with FamilyWize

For Immediate Release: Winston Salem, NC – June 6 2019 – United Way of Forsyth County today announced that 46,354 Winston Salem, Forsyth County residents have saved over $5,000,000.00 on their prescription medications, thanks to its partnership with FamilyWize, an organization focused on improving the health and well-being of individuals, families and communities. FamilyWize delivers significant savings on prescription medications through its free, easy to use prescription discount card

Through this partnership, the United Way has helped promote the free, easy to use FamilyWize Prescription Discount Card, which has helped more than 13 million Americans save more than $1.5 billion on their prescriptions.

“People should never have to choose between putting food on the table or taking their prescription medication,” Cindy Gordineer, United Way of Forsyth county President and CEO. “That’s why we formed a partnership with FamilyWize. Their free prescription discount card can reduce the costs of prescriptions for anyone who uses it. It’s an extremely valuable resource that everyone, regardless of their financial situation, should use.”

The FamilyWize card immediately lowers the cost of prescription medications by an average of 45% percent for people with and without insurance. Just by presenting the FamilyWize card or mobile app at their local pharmacy, people can save on the cost of their medicine, with no strings attached.

“We’re excited to see the people of Winston Salem/Forsyth County realize the benefits of our prescription discount card,” said Vickie Nisbet, Director of Community Relations at FamilyWize. “We hope that they continue to use the card and share it with others, as it can provide a significant savings.”

The Free FamilyWize Prescription Discount Card can be used by anyone: uninsured, insured, and even people with Medicaid or Medicare. The use of the card is unlimited, does not require any personal information from the user and has no eligibility criteria.

To take advantage of the savings that FamilyWize offers, consumers can print a card from FamilyWize.org, can call 1-866-810-3784 and request a card be mailed to them, or download the free FamilyWize app.

About FamilyWize

Since 2005, FamilyWize has helped over 13 million Americans live healthier lives by saving them more than $1.5 billion on prescription medications. By aggregating large groups of patients, FamilyWize advocates and negotiates for deep discounts on prescription medications which it then passes on in full to patients. FamilyWize partners with some of the most respected community groups and health care providers in the country, including United Way Worldwide, National Council for Behavioral Health, Mental Health America, and American Heart Association, among thousands of other community organizations. To use FamilyWize, download our card or mobile app at https://familywize.org/free-prescription-discount-card.

United Way of Forsyth County brings the community and its resources together to solve problems that no one organization can address alone.

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Press Release: United Way of Forsyth County Announces Day of Action June 21, 2019

WINSTON-SALEM, NC —United Way of Forsyth County Invites the Community to Join in the Day of Action June 21, 2019.

On and around June 21 each year, tens of thousands of people across the globe volunteer to fight for the health, education and financial stability of every person in every community. United Way’s Day of Action provides opportunities for volunteers, donors and advocates to be part of solutions that make a real difference in people’s lives.

On Friday June 21, from 9am- 3pm, United Way of Forsyth County will work to assist seniors in the Place Matters Neighborhoods with home repairs and landscaping.

Community Engagement Manager Tahja Gaymon notes, “United Way of Forsyth County recognizes there are seniors in our community who do not have the financial means to make the necessary repairs or upkeep for their homes. For this reason, we are organizing volunteers throughout the community who will come together to do home repairs, painting and landscaping for seniors in our Place Matters community. “

Please contact Tahja Gaymon at Tahja.gaymon@uwforsyth.org for more information. To volunteer : https://www.signupgenius.com/go/70a0a45a8a72fa6ff2-united

For more information about the United Way, visit www.forsythunitedway.org

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United Way of Forsyth County brings the community and its resources together to solve problems that no one organization can address alone.

Progress to Zero Update

Last week was the State Homeless Conference in Raleigh.  Forsyth County had a strong showing of advocates at the conference, who have all returned refreshed and energized with new ideas and focus.  One strain of conversation that I have heard much about is on Housing Focused Shelter.  
The distillation of the concept is that from the first contact with folks entering the shelter the conversation, the focus should be on connecting to housing, there is a lot to unpack from these sessions which we will be doing as a CoC over the next several months.  What resonated for me in hearing folks talk about the housing focused shelter is that for most of the folks who touch homeless services, shelter is the only or the primary service they access.  If we want to end homelessness, then we must look at how our shelters policies and practices impact the flow of folks in and out of the homeless system.
We now have 19 folks on us by-name list.  The new folks to the list are folks who have either aged into chronicity because they have been waiting so long for a supportive housing placement, or were folks known to us returning from places such as hospitalizations or incarcerations.   This growth in our list is coming not from new people coming to our community, but rather folks we as a system have been interacting with for many months, and in some cases years.  
We have been focused for a long time on the handful of supportive housing resources, both permanent supportive housing and rapid re-housing.   We are working with case managers from all of these programs on finding new housing opportunities, on reducing the length of time from program entry to housing move-in and reducing length of stay in programs.  These case managers are working hard at housing folks and at continuous improvement. Their hard work has made good progress not just for their clients, but for our homeless services system.  
But to end chronic homelessness we have to not just keep working on improving our supportive housing muscles, but we also need to look at the front end of our system including both shelter and street outreach.   We need to develop, as a CoC, the muscles to help people develop and strengthen their connections to their natural support networks, mainstream resources (meaning anything not specifically for homeless people) and self-sufficiency skills  so that there are other doors out of homelessness then the few supportive housing slots available.
Homeless service providers are not in this work alone, and while we are the drivers of the work to end chronic homelessness, we are not the only organizations responsible for improving health, housing and wellness outcomes for people experiencing homelessness.  As I mentioned above, significant connections exist between homelessness, incarceration, hospitalizations, and mental health & substance abuse treatment services.     In connecting with some of these systems we have made great progress over the last 10 years, but if the in-flow to our chronically homeless by name list is any indication, we still have a long way to go to make sure that we are creating the systems and relationships across our county that support our goal of ending chronic homelessness.
Peace!
Andrea
Andrea S. Kurtz

Press Release: Reynolds American (RAI) Awards United Way of Forsyth County with $20,000 to Support Career Opportunities and Job Training

WINSTON-SALEM, NC — May 22, 2019 Reynolds American (RAI) Awards United Way of Forsyth County with $20,000 to Support Career Opportunities and Job Training

Today, RAI presented United Way of Forsyth County with $20,000 to support a new initiative that will connect existing job seekers with short term training in high demand, higher paying careers.

 “We’ve worked alongside the United Way of Forsyth County for years to improve the Winston-Salem area, because we believe in their mission of transformation through building strong communities in which our employees live and work,” noted President and CEO of Reynolds American Inc. (“RAI”) Ricardo Oberlander. “RAI has long taken a leadership role in transforming tobacco, and I’m proud to announce this important new partnership today as we work to help transform our community, as well.”

United Way of Forsyth County President and CEO, Cindy Gordineer, notes, “ We are very grateful to Reynolds American, who have built a long tradition of supporting our community. This pilot and partnership helps our work to ensure that the residents of Forsyth County attain financial stability. We are excited to work with RAI and see what outcomes surface in the pilot phase as we develop future plans”.

For more information about the United Way, visit www.forsythunitedway.org

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United Way of Forsyth County brings the community and its resources together to solve problems that no one organization can address alone.

Progress to Zero Update

It is the beginning of May.  As of today we still have 13 folks on our By-name list and 17 on the not By Name list.  This number hasn’t changed much over the last 5 months.  Of the 13 people on the BNL,  9 of them are in a supportive housing program.  These nine folks have been matched to a PSH program for an average of 114 days and not housed.  The longest folks have been matched to PSH is for 114 days.  The shortest match is 35 days.

This week we have also been confronted with a woman, who is both chronically homeless and pregnant who has been rejected for service by every PSH program and no realistic plan has been developed for her.

If we are going to end chronic homelessness, we have to do better by these folks.  What changes are necessary in order to speed up the time it takes for people matched in PSH to get housed?  What changes do we need to make to ensure that no one who is matched to PSH is rejected by every provider without a realistic housing solution?

These are questions we all must help find the answers or rather then making progress towards ending chronic homelessness, we will again see these numbers rise.

Andrea S. Kurtz

Are Purpose and Community Having a Moment? By BRIAN GALLAGHER, MARCH 20 2019

Are we realizing that people need more than money to be happy?

Across society, we are witnessing a redefinition of individual success in a more holistic way. I see it firsthand in my travels and experience it in my conversations. This new definition includes financial security, but also personal safety, a sense of purpose and a connection to community.

Let me explain. We know personal safety is crucial to a sense of well-being. Feeling secure in your home and community is something we should never take for granted. But what about a sense of purpose and connection to community?

In recent times, people overlooked these themes. Many believed (and still do) that money predominantly drove happiness – and while financial success is important, it’s far from everything.

People need more. They need to know that their lives have meaning—that when they get up in the morning, the result at the end of the day will be a better self, a better family or a better community. The opportunity to advance and make progress brings satisfaction. Purpose is a current buzzword in business circles, and leaders are realizing that consumers favor companies that are responsible, caring and give back.

A shared sense of community goes hand-in-hand with creating purpose, and it has fallen by the wayside in recent decades. I’m not the first to point it out. Notable figures such as Robert Putnam and David Brooks have led the way with their work, such as describing the decline in membership in community organizations. For example, in a recent article Brooks highlighted how important libraries are to building social connections: “It could be that the neighborhood, not the individual, is the essential unit of social change.”

As a lifelong community advocate, I know they are on to something.

Each of us is only as healthy as the communities in which we live and work. We can have millions in the bank, but be individually and communally poor. People who take part in strengthening their communities are often happier. They feel that they are part of something larger, and that by putting something in, they are getting something greater in return.

One of those people is Don Trevarthen from Minnesota. Don worked for more than 25 years as a lawyer for Toro and is a long-time supporter of Greater Twin Cities United Way (GTCUW). He led Toro’s United Way Leadership Giving Campaign for four years, and pledges grew each year. Upon retirement, Don continued his community work by mentoring up-and-coming community leaders, teaching part-time at the University of Minnesota law school, and supporting various GTCUW projects.

“I believe that every member of our community deserves to live a good life and have the same opportunity to succeed,” said Don, a big advocate for people’s talent, intelligence and potential. “I am thankful for the good fortune in my career and in my life, and I want to help others have those same opportunities. As long as I’m able to do so, I will continue supporting organizations that help all people thrive.”

Don, who GTCUW said “has changed our Twin Cities community for the better,“ believes in the power of purpose and community to change lives. It’s also clear that he feels a sense of achievement from supporting his community. During my career, I’ve met an untold number of people like Don who have made amazing individual contributions to their communities’ socioeconomic health.

By redefining success to include personal safety, financial security, sense of purpose and community connections, as well as by embracing the power of digital technology, I believe our communities will be ripe for the kind of social progress fought for by Don and so many others.

Press Release: Partnership for Prosperity to Tackle Poverty in Winston-Salem

 

Office of the Mayor

March 15, 2019

Contact: Evan Raleigh, 336-397-7701; evanr@cityofws.org

Partnership for Prosperity to Tackle Poverty in Winston-Salem

         Mayor Allen Joines and N.C. Rep. Derwin L. Montgomery today announced formation of The Partnership for Prosperity, a new non-profit initiative that will work to implement the recommendations of the Poverty Thought Force.

        The partnership will work to create and implement an action plan for reducing the number of city residents affected by poverty. It will be guided by the recommendations of the Poverty Thought Force, formed by Joines and Montgomery in 2015 and tasked with finding local solutions that would be both impactful and feasible for reducing poverty. After studying the issue for 15 months, the thought force members came up with 56 recommendations and suggested that the community designate a person to work on this effort full-time.

        Accordingly, The Partnership for Prosperity will have an executive director and a community engagement associate, both of whom will work full-time, Joines said.

        “The issues that underlie the enduring persistence of poverty are complex and require a concerted effort to address,” Joines said. “By designating full-time staff, we hope to provide the comprehensive approach that will help us reduce poverty in our community.”

        Montgomery noted that in addition to implementing the recommendations of the Poverty Thought Force, the partnership will collaborate with the existing framework of agencies and programs that are working to reduce poverty. “There are numerous programs already working on this issue,” Montgomery said. “What the partnership can do is help us integrate these efforts so that they can have the maximum impact.” Montgomery said he is excited at the work the partnership will accomplish. “This is just the beginning.”

      John Railey, the former editorial page editor of the Winston-Salem Journal, will serve as the partnership’s executive director. Chanel Nestor, an adjunct lecturer of Rural Sociology and Sociology at N.C. A&T State University and a Winston-Salem native who grew up in the Happy Hill neighborhood, will serve as the community engagement associate.

        Railey said, “Chanel and I are thankful that the mayor and the Poverty Thought Force had the vision for this crucial initiative. We’re excited about starting it from the ground up: by listening to those living in poverty and aligning with them in the fight.”

        Support for the partnership is being provided by the city, BB&T, the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, Goodwill Industries of Northwest North Carolina, the United Way of Forsyth County and Wake Forest University.

        As an initial step, the partnership will hold a series of “listening sessions” with those who are living in poverty. The meetings are open to the public and will solicit input on the Poverty Thought Force recommendations and which of them the partnership should focus on implementing.

        Listening sessions will be held:

·         Monday, April 1, 1 p.m., Financial Pathways of the Piedmont, 7820 North Point Blvd., Suite 100.

·         Thursday, April 4, 1 p.m., Cleveland Homes Community Center, 1135 E. 15th St.

·         Thursday, April 4, 6 p.m., Skyline Village, 1528 Bruce St.

·         Friday, April 5, 2:30 p.m., The Community Mosque of Winston-Salem, 1419 Waughtown St.

·         Monday, April 8, 2 p.m., (Meeting of The Homeless Caucus) Central Library auditorium, 660 W. Fifth St.

·         Wednesday, April 10, 1:30 p.m., Crisis Control Ministry, 200 10th St. E.

·         Thursday, April 11, 6 p.m., Emmanuel Baptist Church, 1075 Shalimar Drive.

·         Wednesday, April 24, 1:30 p.m., Lloyd Presbyterian Church, 748 N. Chestnut St.

·         Wednesday, April 24, 8 p.m., Open Arms Community of the United Methodist Church, 437 E. Sprague St.

·         Thursday, April 25, 2 p.m., Experiment in Self-Reliance, 3480 Dominion St. NE.

        Railey can be reached at John.railey@uwforsyth.org. Nestor can be reached atChanel.nestor@uwforsyth.org

Media Advisory- Poverty Thought Force

MEDIA ADVISORY
 
Mayor Allen Joines will hold a news conference at 11 a.m. Friday, March 15, to announce the formation of a follow-up organization that will carry on the work of the Poverty Thought Force, and introduce its leaders. Speakers will include Joines, N.C. Rep. Derwin L. Montgomery and representatives from sponsoring organizations. The news conference will be held in the City Hall Council Chamber, 101 N. Main St., Winston-Salem.
 
Joines, along with Montgomery and Rogan Kersh, the provost of Wake Forest University, announced the formation of the Poverty Thought Force in October 2015 and asked its 22 members to find local solutions for reducing poverty that would be both impactful and feasible. The thought force members delivered their final report in February 2017, which included 56 recommendations. The final report is posted at PovertyThoughtForce.com.