February 15, 2024

United Way of Pennsylvania

As we conclude 211 Day Celebrations, here's a message looking back on 2023, and what's ahead for 2024, from PA 211 Vice President Emily Aubele

2023 proved itself another transformative year for PA 211, not only because of the continually increasing number of requests received, or because of the widening breadth of collaborations with community partners across the state, but also as a result of the acquisition and implementation of technologies that will allow us to better and more efficiently respond to those requests.  The development of a web-based chat translation tool has allowed over 2,000 individuals whose primary language is not English to easily chat with resource navigators and get connected to local resources more quickly and equitably than before.    

PA 211’s migration to a new Customer Relationship Management (CRM ) has significantly expanded our ability to create interoperability between platforms, use cutting edge technologies to create feedback loops and referral pathways between multiple partners, and ensure that updating and maintaining community based resource information is less cumbersome. Finally, the connection of our systems to a data visualization tool, DOMO, has expanded the ability to collect, customize, and analyze needs and referral data in a way heretofore impossible.  

As a result of these developments, the year ahead is poised to be one of the most exciting yet, as we work with customers and community organizations to learn more about how we can use these tools to serve a greater array of stakeholders in novel and visionary ways. We know at all levels our work is evolving in complexity and significance, and there will be no single solution to the variety of issues that often overwhelm us and our neighbors, but we do know that true collaboration across many sectors will advance us further than we may imagine possible. It will be a year of connecting, learning, and transforming and it will take all of us to do that work well.   

And we also know, without question, that these tools and abilities would be of little use if not placed in the capable hands of the staff who show up every day to respond to requests, lead regional contact centers, and provide the compassionate care that can make a monumental difference in someone's life. It is not easy work, and the resilience and fortitude these folks bring to the mission is inspiring. This is one of our greatest strengths, and we would like to express our gratitude for their commitment to serving their communities.  

LIVE PA Grant Deploys More Than $2 Million to Nonprofit and Faith-Based Organizations to Support COVID Vaccinations

Time does not stand still and even though the COVID-19 pandemic is in our rearview mirror, the virus is not. People still get sick and immuno-compromised individuals continue to be at risk for serious complications. In 2021, the Pennsylvania Department of Health entrusted United Way of Pennsylvania with the administration and promotion of the LIVE PA COVID-19 Grant, which allocated funds to community based nonprofit agencies as well as faith-based organizations with education, outreach, and facilitation of vaccine events aimed at hard-to-reach, marginalized, and historically neglected populations across the commonwealth. 

Since then, United Way of Pennsylvania has been able to partner with these agencies and faith-based groups to provide this important outreach and vaccines where they are needed most, right in their communities and places of worship. To this end, the grant recently expanded to include outreach to homebound individuals who either because of health or transportation can’t leave their homes.

The effort to reach out through the grant, has been able to put hundreds of thousands of dollars back in these communities, to relieve them of costs associated with facilitating vaccine events, and to empower even the smallest nonprofit and faith-based organizations to participate. In total, over $2 million has been distributed through the grant to these agencies. We couldn’t be more proud of the resilience and dedication of LIVE PA partners to educate their community members and make it easy to be vaccinated. 

If you have any questions on the LIVE PA COVID-19 Grant, please click below. 


Highlights from Governor Shapiro's Budget Proposal

On February 6, 2024, Governor Shapiro presented his 2024-25 budget proposal which includes investment in economic development and enhanced funding for Pre-K and K-12 education. Specifically there was increased funding devoted to vocational and apprenticeship programs, a $30 million investment in Pre-K teacher recruitment and retention, and a historic investment in K-12 education, at $1.1 billion, which will be divided amongst several development and programming efforts. 

Unfortunately, this year's budget did not see an increase in funding for PA 211, which has served as a necessary tool for addressing community need across the Commonwealth. As rates of basic need insecurity continue to rise with inflation and stagnant wages, PA 211 receives an increased amount of requests for assistance. Without continued investment in this vital service, fewer Pennsylvanians will be connected to the resources they need. 

United Way will continue to champion the need for increased investment in PA 211's infrastructure, and you can join us - see the article below for an easy way to contact your legislators and request their support for PA 211 funding.

Affordable Connectivity Program Funding Set to Expire in April

Over 22 million Americans are at risk of losing broadband assistance as the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) begins its wind-down process. Created as a one-time fund in 2021 under the Investment in Infrastructure and Jobs Act, ACP has lessened the financial burden of broadband access for many ALICE households by providing a discount of up to $30 per month toward broadband bills. 

1 in 6 American households were connected to low-cost, reliable broadband services, many for the first time, allowing access to virtual education, healthcare, employment, and opportunities strengthening community connectivity. The ACP also enrolled 960,000 veterans and 4.6 million individuals aged 65+, helping to bridge the digital divide and expand digital equity. 

Service providers released the first of three notifications to subscribers in the ACP on January 25th, 2024, giving notice that their internet bill will increase. The next notification will be sent out one month before funding expires, likely March 1st, 2024, once again warning subscribers of a price increase. The third and final notification will be released with new statement totals without the ACP discount. Within these three notifications, subscribers who were not active customers before ACP benefits, and individuals who are not paying any amount for service will receive opt-in letters to continue or discontinue their service. 

Although the ACP has been successful in reaching underserved communities, funding is projected to run out in April 2024, leaving millions of individuals to choose between internet access and other essential services. Congress has the ability to continue funding the ACP but has made little headway in ensuring continued broadband access to low-income households despite legislation being introduced.

To support continued funding for the ACP, United Way of PA encourages you to urge your U.S. Senator and Representative to support ACP funding to make this vital program permanent and sustainable.

Protect ACP

Increase PA 211 Annual Funding!

With each passing year, contact volume and needs requests increase, but financial support remains mostly stagnant. United Way of Pennsylvania and PA 211 are asking for your help to contact our state legislature and let them know how vital PA 211 is to our communities. It is imperative that we continue to address the needs of the most vulnerable through a consistent investment in PA 211's infrastructure, by increasing the annual appropriation from $750,000 to $2 million.

Please help us urge the Pennsylvania legislature to invest in the PA 211 infrastructure by singing on below.

Take Action

Summary of Listen4Good Feedback 

PA 211 appreciates the clients who participated in the PA 211 survey. They shared valuable insights about our services and how we can better serve the residents of Pennsylvania. Their input is crucial, and we are committed to making improvements based on the feedback. We are excited to announce some of the enhancement measures we are implementing to improve client service at PA 211. Thank you for your continued support and collaboration in making our services even better.

Survey Results
Helpful Resources:

United Way Helps Pennsylvanians with Tax Filing

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and MyFreeTaxes are free tax filing services for households across PA. VITA allows eligible households with $60,000 or less in annual income (depending on program) to schedule appointments and 211 provides assistance with scheduling.

MyFreeTaxes offers a virtual option and guides households through the tax process, saving an average of $200 in fees and completing taxes in under an hour. MyFreeTaxes offers virtual preparation for households with $60,000 or less in household income and provides a self-service portal for households with under $79,000 in annual income.

Find a VITA Site

Support Your Community

Will you help PA communities improve their financial stability, health, and education? Choose to support your local United Way, efforts to improve life for people who work and struggle to survive (ALICE), or our program to connect people to the help they need (PA 211.) Give, advocate, or volunteer today.

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