Chenango United Way • 83 North Broad Street • Norwich, NY 13815 • 607.334.8815      

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Public Policy and Advocacy

The Chenango United Way supports our community’s work to advance the common good in the areas of education, income and health by supporting and advocating for local, state and federal policies and funding. Examples of our local efforts include: working to maintain and increase the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and free income tax preparation sites for low-income working families in Chenango County working to advocate for and allocate national FEMA funds to Chenango County food pantries and soup kitchens through the Emergency Food and Shelter Program advocating for prompt contracting and prompt payment policies to ensure that Chenango County nonprofits and governmental agencies receive their state and federal funding contract and payments in a timely manner advocating for families with no or little health insurance by providing them with discount prescription cards through the FamilyWize Drug Discount Card Program working with local community and governmental organizations to discuss and address the critical issues of homelessness and sub-standard housing in Chenango County working with our community’s youth to build civic engagement and encourage high school completion.

Advocacy and Partnership Efforts at the Chenango United Way

As a leading community impact organization, the Chenango United Way knows that real and sustained change in community conditions requires more than money. Anyone can champion the cause. Whether you’re speaking out to improve education, income and health, reaching out to member of the Chenango County Board of Supervisors, or wearing the LIVE UNITED shirt to show your support, you can help inspire hope and create opportunities for a better tomorrow. So go ahead and advocate in a LIVE UNITED world. Do it in public. Be visible. Be loud.

Examples of Advocacy at the Local Level

Income

Given the cost of living today, a family needs to earn at least 2.5 times the federal poverty level to be considered financially stable in most communities.  The Chenango United Way advocates for policies to enable the nation's lower-income families and individuals to increase income, build savings, and grow assets, so that this population may enjoy not only decreased debt and sustained income, but also the ability to work towards attaining stable housing, post-secondary education or workforce training, entrepreneurship, or retirement. 

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is the nation’s largest and most effective federal aid program for low-income workers. Enacted by Congress, it was intended to offset the burden of social security taxes on low wage workers and has been widely recognized for its success in supporting work and reducing poverty. This federal credit is further enhanced in NYS, which enacted a state EITC in 1994, with strong support from local United Ways, including the Chenango United Way. It was subsequently increased to its current value of 30% of the federal credit. According to the NYS Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA), $3.3 billion in federal and state EITC are returned to NYS families each year. In Chenango County, the Chenango United Way partners with more than eleven community agencies to facilitate free income tax preparation and assistance for low income families. Because of this partnership last year, more than 1,300 families had their taxes completed for free and more than $1 million was returned to local working families in tax credits.

The Emergency Food and Shelter Program (EFSP) is a federal initiative that meets the needs of the nation’s hungry and homeless, along with those at risk of becoming homeless due to emergency and/or economic downturn.  Federal funds are used to supplement the work of local agencies providing food, shelter, and utility assistance. EFSP is an example of the Chenango United Way’s efforts to advance the common good in Chenango County. Since the early 1990’s, the Chenango United Way has worked with local community members to advocate for those facing hunger and homelessness and has allocated more than a half a million dollars to the seventeen food pantries and soup kitchens that serve Chenango County.

Education

The Youth Philanthropy Council (YPC) was launched in 2008 at Norwich High School with junior and senior high school aged students. The program has been supported through a collaborative effort of the Chenango United Way, NBT Bank and the Community Foundation for South Central New York, and with funding from the Frederick & Margaret L. Weyerhaeuser Foundation and the Upstate Institute at Colgate University. Sixteen students (2008 – 2009 academic year) and ten students (2009-2010 academic year) have spent the school year learning about the importance and impact of philanthropy in society and how philanthropists find and fund worthy causes.

Each year, the students had the chance to become philanthropists when they distributed $10,000 to non-profit agencies in Chenango County. The students spent the first semester developing leadership skills while learning about philanthropy and non-profit organizations from community members in the non-profit sector. During the second semester, students transitioned into a working foundation, learned about the needs of Chenango County, and reached a consensus on the goals to guide their competitive grant making efforts. The capstone event was a public award presentation of the grant awards. During the first year of the YPC, the students chose to focus their attention on the issue of developing and sustaining programs in the areas of mental and physical well-being for disadvantaged families with a focus youth. Funds were awarded to a home based counseling program at Catholic Charities of Chenango County ($4,500), parent workshops at Mothers and Babies Perinatal Network ($3,600), and a summer recreation program at “The Place” Christian Neighborhood Center of Norwich ($1,900). During the second year of the project, the students shifted their attention to providing education to low income families, with a focus on prepare families to sustain themselves in the future rather than providing immediate relief—in essence, to help families help themselves. Funds were awarded to a young adult tutoring program at Literacy Volunteers of Chenango County ($3,500), a financial literacy program at Opportunities for Chenango ($2,000) and a self sufficiency program at Roots & Wings of Catholic Charities of Chenango County ($4,500).

In our region, we have seen a decrease in the number of young adults engaged in civic activism and volunteerism. We have also seen a spike in the number of youth lost to “brain drain”, or the exodus of our educated young people. Given these circumstances, the YPC partner organizations hoped that the YPC initiative would not only engage our community’s youth in civic participation now, but also when they go away to college. We also wanted to encourage our youth to “tune in” to our community and learn about its most critical assets and needs so that they might be inspired to return to Chenango County after pursuing higher education. And, we wanted to provide these students with valuable leadership skills so that they would become both philanthropists and valuable, contributing members on the Boards of future non profit organizations.

The YPC process has shown positive outcomes. The students felt they developed leadership skills by becoming more comfortable with group discussions, speaking their opinion, oral presentations, and confidence in their decisions and ideas. One student wrote that their experience in YPC helped them explain their point of view, what they were thinking, and why. The YPC experience has also affected students’ opinions of non-profit organizations and their involvement in the community. Students now have more respect for non-profit organizations. Students also feel that they would like to become more active in their community.

Now that the students are becoming more aware of our community’s most critical needs, they are beginning to spread the word and advocate among their friends and family about the issues facing Chenango County. Several have written school papers and/or senior projects further detailing the issues/needs that have affected them the most. Most of our YPC students are now actively volunteering in community organizations and several have also engaged their parents in community volunteer opportunities as well.

 

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Chenango United Way
83 North Broad Street • Norwich, NY 13815
607.334.8815 Office • 607.334.8830 Fax
Email: info@chenangouw.org

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