As I look back on the year 2020, I am hopeful for our future. This past year at United Way of York County has shown us that our community shows up for one another. The unprecedented challenges of this year have magnified the fact that we are all connected and interdependent. That is why United Way is committed to bringing people together to create a community where EVERYONE thrives.
Despite this year’s challenges, we have a lot to celebrate at UWYC. We funded 22 community programs providing critical services in York County. This community investment was made possible by the generosity of individuals, businesses, and foundations who contributed to United Way of York County during the campaign for 2019-2020.
This was the first year we offered a Financial Stability Grant. As you know, we transformed into an issue-focused United Way over a three-year period. By adopting one critical issue to address in York County, we focus not only on United Way’s efforts but also on the whole community’s efforts to accomplish a shared Bold Goal – to help 3,000 York County families achieve financial stability by 2030.
The funded programs help individuals learn job-hunting and job preparedness skills, increase their knowledge of effective financial practices, help make ends meet by providing supportive services for those with loved ones depending on them, and much more.
Another success was our COVID-19 Family Fund. The COVID-19 Family Fund helped those impacted avoid eviction or foreclosure, ensured that our citizens did not go without critical utility services, and assured families could access supportive services for their loved ones. 100% of the contributions to the fund went to support non-profits directly serving our neighbors facing economic distress associated with COVID-19. The fund raised $24,960.
We can’t reflect on 2020 without thanking the frontline workers who continue to keep essential services going. It is because of them that our hope and well-being can continue. Healthcare professionals, food industry workers, law enforcement, teachers, delivery drivers, public safety, and so many others have put their health at risk to keep our community running.
Additionally, our work could not be done without the generosity of local businesses and companies running a Workplace Campaign. United Way Workplace Campaign programs unite employees across a company to give them an opportunity to donate, volunteer, and advocate for causes that matter to them. I am so thankful for the companies that continue to support UWYC, even during this unpredictable time. It takes everyone in the community working together to create a brighter future.
An initiative I am excited to share with you is the Self-Sufficiency Standard prepared by the University of Washington on behalf of the United Way Association of South Carolina. The Self-Sufficiency Standard for South Carolina is a measure of income adequacy that is based on the costs of basic needs for working families: housing, child care, food, health care, transportation, and miscellaneous items, as well as the cost of taxes and the impact of tax credits.
According to this study, for a family of three living in York County (one adult and two kids), the annual wage required to be self-sufficient is $50,746. To put this number into perspective, 21% of York County households earn less than $25,000.
The official poverty measure, developed half a century ago, is now methodologically out of date and no longer accurately measures the ability to provide for oneself and one’s family – at best, it measures “deprivation.” Throughout South Carolina, the Self-Sufficiency Standard shows that incomes well above the official federal poverty thresholds are nevertheless far below what is necessary to meet families’ basic needs.
United Way of York County is looking forward to using the study results to help clients of workforce training programs seeking paths to self-sufficiency or those in financial literacy programs to prepare realistic budgets. The study can also inform local employers striving to pay a living wage and advise policymakers and legislators seeking to ensure that basic needs are affordable for South Carolina families.
The United Way of York County’s mission is to help 3,000 York County families achieve financial stability by 2030. Our work is just beginning. As we look to 2021, I am excited about the stories of success to come. When one individual succeeds, our community as a whole succeeds. It is evident that York County is a community of helpers, and we must continue to come together to lift our neighbors.
Rebecca Melton, President