Rosie Allen-Herring is the president and CEO of United Way of the National Capital Area. (Courtesy Photo)

By Rosie Allen-Herring

On average in the D.C., Maryland and Virginia (DMV) region, less than half of our households earn above the Federal Poverty Level, yet are not eligible for assistance and cannot afford the basic household necessities such as housing, childcare, food, transportation, health care, and even a basic smartphone plan. These three characteristics are causing households to struggle from paycheck to paycheck– or worse, fall behind the red line of debt with little opportunity to advance beyond it. 

Your United Way of the National Capital Area (NCA) identifies these households as ALICE (Asset, Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) populations. They are working households trapped in systemic inequities. For example, 39 percent of households in Maryland cannot afford essentials. 

United Way NCA conducts ALICE reports every two years and uses the data to analyze the real cost of living as a way to identify the need for innovative and comprehensive solutions to attain equity for all in the areas of health, education and economic opportunity. For example, our Financial Empowerment Center (FEC) at Prince George’s Community College has worked to prepare free taxes for households that need the help. 

“The FEC is big because we are the only ones in Prince George’s County that offer to do previous years’ taxes. This is a huge gap that needs to be filled because some of our residents have not filed taxes in years,” said Victoria Saunders, coordinator for the United Way NCA Financial Empowerment Center. “Being able to offer that service has provided so much relief to them. Once caught up on their taxes, they can shift their focus to debt relief and improve their credit scores. These are examples of the many FEC services we offer to clients.”

Another example is Project Community Connect (PCC), an event that provides equitable access to resources needed by ALICE populations and for those at risk of or experiencing homelessness. At this year’s eighth annual PCC, from Oct. 3 to Oct. 8, United Way NCA and its partners will host three regional pop-up events. Locations include Prince George’s Community College, Kelly Miller Middle School in Washington, D.C., and Francis C. Hammond Middle School in Alexandria, Va. 

The events will feature in-person resource fairs offering much-needed services such as medical screenings, including COVID testing or vaccinations; rental and utility assistance; workforce resources and opportunities; legal services and counseling, clothing and food distribution, and more.

United Way NCA will also be working with its regional partners to deliver more than 4,500 kits of basic needs items throughout the week to community members, including general hygiene, feminine hygiene, healthy snacks and warm clothing kits.

PCC has served more than 1,500 participants, to date. United Way NCA will continue to look for innovation to touch the lives of those in need. We invite you to join us as we advance toward equity for all people across the DMV. We strongly believe that when none are ignored, all will thrive. 

For more information on Project Community Connect, please visit https://unitedwaynca.org/pcc.

Rosie Allen-Herring is the president and CEO of United Way of the National Capital Area.

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