by Ashley Hillman
Community Collaborations Director
What do Kearns High School, Redwood Recreation Center, Northwest Community Center, and the Central City Recreation Center have in common? They’re all Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites that offer FREE tax preparation for hard working households with incomes less than $57,000!
I had the opportunity to visit the NEW Kearns High School VITA site a few nights ago and chat with some of the volunteers and individuals receiving tax assistance. The room was full and to my surprise, everyone was in great spirits, despite being gathered together for this common reason: taxes! Volunteers were happy to assist their neighbors, and individuals receiving refunds were excited to share their plans with me.
One lady receiving tax assistance is planning a cross-country trip to visit her siblings who live as far away as Ohio. She was planning to purchase her plane ticket after receiving her refund. Another gentleman was anxious to continue supporting his grandchildren who obviously brighten his life. His eyes lit up as he spoke about each child.
Most everyone I spoke with last night had heard about the new VITA site at Kearns High School through UWSL’s 2-1-1 Call Center. If you are looking for tax assistance this season and want to work with friendly, knowledgeable VITA volunteers, you can also call 2-1-1 to find a site near you. You may need to make an appointment, but some sites are walk-in. Please visit www.utahtaxhelp.org for a list of VITA sites (appointment and walk-in)! Thanks to Community Action Partnership of Utah for helping make the new Kearns site a success!
by Elizabeth Garbe
Public Policy Director
The end of 2012 Legislative session is quickly approaching. Coming off of a packed week that included United Way Day on the Hill–United Way is re-energized! We will continue the push for our priorities, including $10 million for Optional Extended Day Kindergarten (OEK) and a YES vote for SB226, High Quality Preschool Program Project. Day on the Hill attendees advocated for both of these priorities and YOU can help by responding to the Action Alert for OEK and email the Executive Appropriations Committee members urging them to fund the program.
Great news! Senator Osmond’s High Quality Preschool Project, SB226, has been assigned to the Senate Education Committee and will be heard on Wednesday at 7:30 a.m. in Room 415 of the Capitol. Please take 5 minutes to email the Senate Education Committee and ask them to vote YES on SB226. While the bill was not prioritized for funding because it was introduced late in the session, this is a great educational opportunity. As you may have read in the newspapers, the new revenue projections brought good and bad news. The good news is that they were a little higher than the last projection, so programs will not be cut this year. However, they were not significantly higher so new programs such as SB226 will be hard-pressed to receive funding this year. The hearing on Wednesday is a great opportunity to bring attention to high quality preschool that will not only close the achievement gap, but will save tax payer dollars in the long run.
Late Friday night the House Education Committee debated a variety of bills, including HB156 Public Education Program Amendments. United Way and many of our income priority partners were there to oppose efforts to eliminate the high school financial literacy graduation requirement. The requirement was added in 2005 and was the first step in making sure kids have the knowledge they need to live financially stable lives. Being maxed out financially can lead to other problems such as bankruptcy, foreclosure, and domestic violence–it is vital to receive financial education at an early age. Representative Mathis moved a motion to keep the requirement and add a test out option. The amendment and bill were not voted on Friday but committee members will resume debate on Tuesday at 8:00 a.m. in room 445 of the Capitol.
You can see where our other priorities are in the process by checking out our bill tracker. Follow the conversation on Twitter by following @uwsl and by searching #utleg or #utpol.
Kids & Money: Books
Everyone knows that reading to your child increases vocabulary and learning. Reading your child books about money can teach smart money management skills too! Check your local library or bookstore for these recommended books.
Find more books here!
by Chelsea Nelson
This morning United Way of Salt Lake hosted their 6th annual Day on the Hill event! The Capitol Building was buzzing with people due to the legislative session and participants got right in the middle of the action!
The morning started off with a short advocacy training so that people who were new to the legislative process could better understand how the process works and how to best make their voices heard. Bill Crim, UWSL’s Senior Vice President of Community Impact and Public Policy, gave a great overview of legislative DOs and DON’Ts and advice on making an impact. Later that morning, Elizabeth Garbe, UWSL’S Public Policy Director, talked about the specific bills that United Way is supporting, why they are important to our community, and how to lobby for them. Optional Extended-Day Kindergarten and the High Quality Pre-School Project (SB226), sponsored by Senator Osmond, were top priorities. To find out more about these initiatives and how to get involved, go to United Way of Salt Lake’s ADVOCACY pages!
Geared up with better knowledge of the lobbying process and armed with information on Optional Extended-Day Kindergarten & High Quality Preschool (SB226), attendees then went to work lobbying for these important initiatives! United Way was recognized in both the House and Senate galleries for their work in the community and representatives were responsive to the lobbying done by our group! It was so exciting to see the process in action and that making an impact can happen right before your eyes.
We hope you will lobby with us through this legislative session and make your voice heard! If you weren’t able to join us this morning at Day on the Hill, we hope that you will next year and make your voice heard for lasting change in our community!
by Brian Guyer
Volunteer Engagement Director
Working as the Volunteer Director for United Way of Salt Lake has made me aware of the various opportunities for people to volunteer in our community. I am always on the lookout for new partners that align with the United Way goals in the areas of Education, Income, and Health. Today I’m highlighting a partner who not only aligns with the goals of United Way but gives volunteers the opportunity to go back to school to spend some time on the subject everyone loved…RECESS.
Over the past few weeks I have been using a lunch break a week to volunteer with Playworks at a local elementary school. Playworks is an organization that has been around for a while (although it just arrived in Utah) and their mission is to support learning by providing safe, healthy, and inclusive play and physical activity to low-income schools at recess and throughout the entire school day. I can’t tell you how much fun this volunteer opportunity has been for me. It’s like I get to relive my childhood once a week. The games they play are the same games I remember from my childhood (four square, kickball, knockout) but they focus on teamwork, inclusiveness, and fair play. Students have clearly taken the Playworks doctrines to heart because every out in kickball is followed with an energetic “nice try!” and several high fives. Gone are the days of being the last kid picked for the playground games. Playworks staff are on site to make sure that no kids are left out and everyone gets a chance to take part. For me the highlight has been the students recognizing me and making an effort to take part in whatever game I’m playing. This has made for some very spirited games of four square and more than once I’ve been humbled by the expertise of the Lincoln Elementary students.
As the Volunteer Engagement Director for United Way I connect people with volunteer opportunities every single day but this one, on a personal level, has been such a joy for me. I can’t suggest volunteering with Playworks highly enough. Call them up, go through the very simple training, and then take an hour or two a week to get outside and reconnect with the recess games of your childhood while being a role model and positive influence in the lives of a great group of kids.
For more information about volunteering with Playworks or any other organization please contact Brian Guyer at: firstname.lastname@example.org