Afterschool and Summer Learning
United Way of Rhode Island endeavors to increase funding for quality afterschool and summer learning programming. According to the Afterschool Alliance, when students participate in out-of-school time programs, including summer learning, they do better in school, their attendance improves, and they are more likely to graduate.
Currently, 40,000 Rhode Island youth are eager—but unable—to access afterschool and summer learning programs. We work to expand these services through the Rhode Island Afterschool Network and the Hasbro Summer Learning Initiative.
Adult Education/Workforce Development
United Way believes in providing opportunities for adults to continue to learn throughout life. In 2015 we organized conversations on the future of foundational skills development and adult education in Rhode Island.
Recommendations included advocating for increased funding to the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) for adult education to accommodate over 80,000 adults who lack a high school diploma or equivalency.
An analysis of adult students completing RIDE programs in 2014 and 2015 showed a correlation between participation in adult education and increases in participants’ wages and rate of employment. Quarterly earnings increased nearly 40% within 6 months of completing the adult education program.
Currently, we support expansion of Rhode Island Promise to working-age adults and expansion of the Rhode Island Real Jobs program, including increased funding to reduce the learning opportunity wait list.
United Way believes in providing high-quality early learning opportunities for children. We were part of the team that founded BrightStars, which helps families choose quality childcare programs.
Children begin learning in the womb and brain development proceeds rapidly in early childhood. Access to high-quality learning programs pre-birth to kindergarten helps prepare children for success in school. These programs are tied to a family’s income. Unfortunately, most families cannot afford to enroll their children in high-quality early learning programs.
We continue to advocate for equitable reimbursement rates for providers and quality programs for children.
Earned Income Tax Credit
The current Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is 15%. United Way supports an increase of the EITC to 20%. Through our Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program (designed to help low- and moderate-income taxpayers complete their annual tax returns at no cost), working families can access the EITC, a powerful tool in enhancing a family’s financial stability.
We will work to expand the VITA program by actively recruiting more volunteers in key geographic areas, leading a legislative advocacy campaign to increase the state’s EITC, and utilizing the United Way 2-1-1 mobile unit to raise awareness of 2-1-1 and provide VITA services in targeted areas.
United Way has a long history of involvement with the state’s financial industry as an advocate and partner seeking to engage a greater number of Rhode Islanders in the opportunities the industry creates.
We have worked on payday lending, creating Individual Development Accounts for people to purchase cars or home appliances, and high school curriculum that introduces students to sound financial competencies.
This year we would like to revisit high school engagement opportunities with Rhode Island’s General Treasurer and some of our banking partners.
Healthcare and Mental Health
New England states lead the nation in lowest uninsured rates; in 2015 the Rhode Island rate dropped to 4.5% uninsured. Ensuring our state exchange, Healthsource RI, is funded adequately is essential in keeping uninsured rates low. We also support increasing access, quality, and parity between mental and medical healthcare in health insurance packages.
Homes Rhode Islanders Can Afford to Live In
Over the past decade spending on homes has outpaced earnings of Rhode Island households. This has led to many Rhode Islanders becoming housing-cost burdened.
United Way joined Rhode Island’s housing policy body, The Housing Resources Commission, as the State Intermediary to advocate for a larger statewide strategy to address housing inequality. We are also a leader in the Homes RI campaign—a coalition of organizations working to expand housing opportunities for all Rhode Islanders.
The State of Rhode Island annually spends $270 million to support the incarceration, probation, parole, and home confinement of 50,000 Rhode Islanders. Following incarceration, many have a permanent blemish on their record. This prohibits them from engaging in productive careers and makes it nearly impossible for them to support their families.
United Way will actively join and/or convene efforts to look critically at the Rhode Island justice system in order to mitigate the damaging effects of incarceration for men, women, and the children of incarcerated individuals. We will also look at the school-to-prison pipeline to determine how to best intervene on behalf of our children and youth.
The State of Rhode Island General Assembly voted to increase the minimum wage to $10.10 on January 1, 2018 and to $10.50 in 2019. A campaign has run and legislation has been introduced to increase the minimum wage to $15.00. The Economic Progress Institute recommends that raises to the Earned Income Tax Credit and the minimum wage should go hand in hand.
United Way supports legislation to increase both the minimum wage and the EITC.
Research and Data
United Way’s Public Policy and Research grants provide funding for policy and research endeavors that address questions regarding equity of opportunity for specific underserved populations, and that generate or evaluate emerging practices that inform or change interventions for maximum effectiveness and impact on Rhode Islanders.
Data projects considered for funding will provide foundational information that frames research or intervention (i.e. Rhode Island KIDS COUNT Factbook, HousingWorks Factbook) or that considers data from a new approach.