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September 18, 2020
The United Way of Union County has been able to help the local community two-fold this year through grant funding made available from the annual donor and workplace driven campaign along with almost $50,000 in COVID Relief funding. This week UWUC’s Community Investment Committee commenced to begin the yearly grant review process for 2021 funding. In addition, UWUC continues to help lead a COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund Committee since the onset of the pandemic in early spring.

The UWUC’s Community Investment group is comprised of 15 local volunteers including United Way of Union County (UWUC) board members along with two UW staff who will review applications from 30 local agencies for grant funding of 40 total programs.

“This is the most important thing we do all year,” Sherri Coleman, Community Investment Committee Chair and UWUC Board Member, said. “The committee volunteers break into teams of two and on average are closely evaluating three agencies and up to 6 programs since many agencies apply for multiple programs. This is both a time consuming and necessary task because we want to ensure the funding we raise through our annual campaign is used in the most effective way possible to better our local community.”

Funding this year for the annual campaign has been prioritized by the COVID-19 health crisis. United Way of Union County also directly contributed $48,883 to the County’s COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund held at the Union County Foundation. 100% of UWUC funds were deposited into the County fund; no administrative fees were deducted. The total fund reached $79,958 and to date $56,156 has been granted to local agencies assisting those affected by COVID-19. In addition, United Way of Union County led the County’s Mass Critical Care Unit through the Union County Emergency Operations Center in an effort to connect local residents and agencies to needed resources related to food, shelter, rent assistance, and unemployment information.

Corinne Bix, UWUC Director, and Commissioner Chris Schmenk serve as co-chairs on the Emergency COVID-19 Response Fund Grant Allocation Committee. Additional committee members include representatives from The Hope Center, The Salvation Army, Council for Union County Families, The Union County EMA, and The Union County Chamber of Commerce. The committee meets on a consistent basis to evaluate community needs in real time.

“The County is grateful for the good work of the Mass Critical Care Unit and the Union County Foundation to help those in need from COVID-19. Corinne Bix of the United Way has provided great leadership, and Dave Vollrath of the Foundation has been a great partner.” Commissioner Chris Schmenk said, “Together they are making our County stronger during this difficult time.”

The Response fund has awarded $30,000 to The Hope Center’s Emergency Assistance Program and $15,500 to local food pantries and supplemental food programs for local students. Other grants have assisted The Union County Cancer Society, Community and Seasoned Citizens, and the purchase of ozone generators for local first responders and crisis reception centers.

“Our community has come together as a family and we have been able to respond quickly to the challenges the pandemic has presented,” Bix said. “I am so very proud of the local partner agencies we support and grateful for their willingness to step up and continue to serve amidst the COVID-19 health concerns. Many of our agencies are small and rely on retired volunteers who are at high risk, but they were able to regroup, reorganize, and continue to serve their clients.”

Bix said given that many of UWUC’s partner agencies rely heavily on grant funding, this year’s annual campaign is crucial.

“Our agencies are already operating on very lean budgets with few paid staff and lots of volunteers.” Bix explained, “The funding they receive from us through our generous donors will ensure they can keep serving effectively and be ready to respond in the event of a health crisis or natural disaster.”

Bix added that it’s important to note a large amount of those affected by the pandemic are considered ALICE households. ALICE stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. The state average for those living below the poverty line is 14%, while those in the ALICE category is 25%. In Union County ALICE households are slightly above the state average at 28%.

“ALICE households were the folks working during the pandemic keeping groceries stocked and those folks who were put out of work during the pandemic because they were working in the restaurant and service industries,” Bix said, “It’s UW funded partner agencies that fill the gaps for our hard working ALICE population and it’s emergency COVID funding for local agencies that bridged the gap of a problem we didn’t even know was possible. Funding for these agencies is critical because more often than not it provides a hand up not a hand out and no one really knows when something unexpected like a pandemic might jeopardize their economic stability.”

The UWUC Community Investment Committee will continue to meet throughout the Fall via Zoom as they review agency applications and conduct site visits. Their final recommendations will be approved by the UWUC Board of Trustees by January 2021. A complete list of board dates is listed on the UWUC website, remaining board dates for 2020 include Oct. 20 and Nov. 17 at 7:30 AM via Zoom. For more information contact corinne.bix@unitedwayofunioncounty.org.
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