By Kevin Zwick
CEO, United Way Bay Area
Mobilizing our communities is often focused on giving and volunteering, but it’s also about ADVOCATING – making our collective voice heard and sharing our priorities with elected leaders. As budget negotiations ramp up in Sacramento and deadlines for legislation approach, United Way Bay Area (UWBA) continues to advocate for policy action that will help to dismantle the root causes of poverty in the Bay Area. Now is the time for action, including reaching out to your elected officials who need to know what issues are important to you. If you are reading this, then that likely means poverty-fighting programs are important to you. From critical funding for 211 helpline services, to expanding the California Earned Income Tax Credit (CalEITC) and Young Child Tax Credit (YCTC), to advocating for additional housing relief, we have our eyes on several pieces of legislation that we want you to be aware of so you can add your voice and advocacy during this crucial time.
When we released our 2022 Voter Guide, one of the main comments we heard was, “This is great! How can we continue to stay informed throughout the year?”
We heard you, and we’re excited to announce one of our newest tools for making your advocacy efforts around our key priorities easier than ever – VOTER VOICE. Our online advocacy platform will send you the most up-to-date information on local policy issues, legislation, and the best ways to connect with your representatives to make your voice heard. If you’re ready to stay informed and engaged, you can now join Voter Voice right now by visiting this link. Our coalition will be stronger, louder, and more effective with YOU in it.
What We’re Watching This Session
Here’s a snapshot of the bills we believe will be vital in our efforts to dismantle poverty. We’re focusing on six key pieces of legislation:
These bills deal with some of our most critical issues and will help UWBA serve the people struggling the most to make ends meet.
At the top of our list of priorities is SB-318, which will provide additional support for the critical 211 helpline that we operate. In 1996, Congress created a network of phone numbers that would be useful for emergency services, community resources, etc. 311, 411, and 211 amongst others. But it did not legislate funding to make these critical services sustainable. Today, we have a mismatched system throughout CA and the Bay Area, where some localities fund 211 and some do not. This is a major issue because we know from our own data that many families in the Bay Area are depending on 211 for help and resources. During the last quarter of 2022, more than 11,000 people reached out for help through 211. Providing additional resources for this program is vital to its sustainability.
If you’ve been keeping up with our work over the past year, you know that Housing Justice is a top priority for United Way Bay Area. The lack of affordable housing is the number one reason people experience poverty. That’s why we’re supporting AB-563 to provide housing vouchers to people experiencing homelessness. Nearly half (49%) of all calls and texts we received through 211 during the last quarter of 2022 were for help to find housing or remain housed. It is imperative that our elected leaders continue to offer and fund solutions that will help get more people housed.
Poverty is a policy choice, particularly child poverty. We continue to say it because it continues to be true. That’s why we’re supporting AB-1498 and AB-1128 to increase the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and expand the Young Child Tax Credit (YCTC) to all EITC-eligible families. During the pandemic, California invested in its families and lifted millions of children out of poverty by expanding these tax credits. Why would we go back? Why would we let those children slip back into a cycle of poverty? We don’t have to.
In 2022, the U.S. Census Bureau reported a 46% decline in child poverty between 2020 -2021 due to expanding the Child Tax Credit, so we know these measures are incredibly effective nationally. Tax credits are one of the best tools available to us in the fight against poverty. We support the permanent expansion of these tax credits so we can get more families and individuals the funds needed to lift themselves out of poverty.
From resources for housing, to investing in our 2-1-1 helpline infrastructure, to pushing for policies that will pull children out of poverty in California – we’re making our priorities known. When we speak together as one United Way Bay Area community, our voice is louder and stronger. So, we need you and everyone you can rally behind our cause to get involved. Join us on VOTER VOICE and encourage others to do the same. Reach out to your lawmakers and let them know the issues that matter most to you. Together, we can choose policies that bring us closer to dismantling the root causes of poverty and help build a better Bay Area where everyone can thrive.