United Way’s Family Fund Prepares for Increased Need as Fuel Costs Rise and Winter Temps Drop
United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley is preparing to face a decrease of funding this year for its Family Fund, citing a confluence of factors including rising fuel costs, forecasts for a colder winter, and the looming "fiscal cliff" as budgets are cut, the charitable tax deduction is in doubt, and many families are expected to lose unemployment benefits in the next month. The Family Fund, which helps struggling families make ends meet by assisting with basic needs such as heating, food, and housing, supports 26 local community agencies and last year helped more than 5,200 people with basic needs and 170,000 with food. This year, that number is expected to rise.
"For many families, this assistance is the difference between making ends meet and being left in the cold," said Michael Durkin, President & CEO of United Way Mass Bay & Merrimack Valley. "We've seen the weather forecasts and the economic forecasts, and we are already seeing an increase in requests for assistance. This winter could produce some of the highest demand we've seen in recent years and we're going to do our best to meet that need."
Last year, it cost $723K to help 13,000 households with food support and 1,300 households with rent/mortgage/utility assistance through the Family Fund, and still there was unmet need - totaling $452K, and over 2,500 clients. Charitable contributions for basic needs assistance declined by some 30-percent last year and, as a result, United Way and its partner agencies served several thousand fewer clients and struggling households. So far this year, the Family Fund has raised $157K out of a projected $500K for distributions and requests for assistance at United Way and the community agencies it supports is already ahead of this time last year.
One in four income-earning Massachusetts families do not make enough to cover the basic costs of living. The Family Fund provides an immediate response to families in financial crisis, investing in 26 community-based agencies across its service area to:
- Expand the availability of emergency basic needs (food, heat, and shelter) assistance;
- Build the capacity of partner agencies to provide these services; and
- Provide seamless access to additional services through United Way's Mass211 helpline.
These partners include such diverse human service agencies as Action for Boston Community Development, Greater Boston Food Bank, Casa Myrna Vazquez, Community Teamwork, Inc., Heading Home, Inc., Jewish Vocational Services, Lynn Economic Opportunity, Inc., and the Greater Lawrence Community Action Council. Last year, the Family Fund invested nearly three-quarters of a million dollars in these agencies, producing the following results:
- Helped 13,000 households/97,500 clients with food assistance, including more than 30,000 children;
- Assisted over 3,100 families with rent, mortgage, or utility payments;
- Over 700 received housing assistance; and
- Provided an estimated $558K in financial assistance and $165K in food assistance.
After recently increasing it's Thanksgiving Project by 40-percent this year to meet the rising need and rising cost of food, United Way is preparing to increase fundraising for its Family Fund during this holiday season. This year, the Thanksgiving Project provided 7,000 local families with Thanksgiving food assistance - up from 5,000 last year - and was able to meet the demand thanks to increased corporate sponsorships and donations.
To learn more or to support the Family Fund, visit http://supportunitedway.org/Families/FFSF
About United Way of Massachusetts Bay & Merrimack Valley
One of the region's largest nonprofits, United Way's work ensures that children enter school ready to learn, youth stay engaged in school so they graduate with options for the future, and parents attain financial stability. No other single organization has the scope, expertise, and influence to bring together hundreds of human services agencies, government, businesses, private foundations and dedicated volunteers around a common vision of creating maximum impact and achieving long-lasting results.