Vice President of Marketing and Communications, United Way of Snohomish County
United Way releases legislative priorities focusing on early learning, hunger, homelessness and seniors
(Everett, WA) - As legislators prepare to meet in Olympia for the start of the 2013 legislative session on January 14, United Way of Snohomish County released its legislative priorities with a focus on early learning, hunger, homelessness and seniors.
"Our legislature is facing a difficult session, and we continue to be concerned about how potential budget cuts will affect Snohomish County," said Dennis G. Smith, president and CEO of United Way of Snohomish County. "Now is the time to maintain the critical investments that our state has already made in these key areas."
The agenda is a result of several months of deliberations and careful consideration by United Way's vision councils, public policy committee, board of directors and other volunteer committees. Although a number of issue areas were considered by the organization's lead volunteers, the focus on early learning, hunger, homelessness and seniors emerged as consensus priorities.
"United Way of Snohomish County focuses on the building blocks of a good life: successful kids, financially stable families and healthy communities," said Katrina Ondracek, Vice President of Public Policy & Community Initiatives. "It's no surprise that our volunteers chose to focus on early learning, hunger, homelessness and seniors for this legislative session."
Ondracek will be in Olympia two days a week during the legislative session meeting with legislators, attending hearings and working with a broad range of advocates to raise awareness around these and other key issues.
United Ways of Washington, an umbrella group that brings together United Ways from across the state, will hold its annual Lobby Day on February 7.
For more information and updates on these and other issues related to United Way's advocacy efforts, please visit www.uwsc.org/advocate.php<http://www.uwsc.org/advocate.php>.
Here are the organization's priorities and particular areas of concern for the 2013 Legislative Session:
Quality Early Learning
Provide funding to support opportunities that ensure children are ready to succeed in school and life.
From infancy through high school, children's educational outcomes are dependent on the quality of their learning experiences. Quality early learning, in particular, has been shown to have a significant positive effect on future life and academic success, because brain circuits are developing actively then. However, for many families, particularly those with low incomes, the demand for early care not only exceeds the available supply, but also costs more than they can afford.
Preserve food programs that keep children and adults from going hungry and being malnourished.
Food is a basic need that should be accessible to all. Hunger and poor nutrition leads to low productivity and lifetime health consequences. The number of Washington households reporting food insecurity has doubled since the start of the recession. Over the past three years, 75,000 new households joined the ranks of the hungry, and the rate of hunger in the state is the highest it has ever been. Currently Washington state ranks 14th in hunger.
Housing & Homelessness
Maintain funding to support affordable housing and options that move people out of homelessness.
Housing is a basic foundation for self-sufficiency, but on an average night, over 2,300 people are homeless in Snohomish County. There are many barriers faced by homeless individuals. The demand for safe, suitable and affordable housing has far outpaced the supply. The complex set of needs faced by many homeless people leaves far too many residents with inadequate housing options or access to some of life's most basic household and sanitary needs.
Support for Seniors
Maintain funding to support senior information & assistance, transportation and caregiver support.
By 2030, almost 200,000 Snohomish County residents will be over age 65. This represents 20% of our population. Adequate support systems need to be in place to address the wellness, care and independence of seniors. Many people desire to 'age in place', and need services to maintain their health and their home. Programs that empower, connect and provide advocacy for seniors are important to individuals and families.
United Way is a community impact organization serving Snohomish County for more than 70 years. In addition to funding 102 programs through 39 agencies with a special focus on local health and human services, United Way of Snohomish County supports a number of initiatives focused on education, financially stable families, a youth volunteering program, North Sound 211 and an emerging initiative in survival English.