United Way of Northwest Florida News

United Way distributing $5 million in COVID-19 aid to Bay County nonprofits

The News Herald – Nov. 9 — The United Way of Northwest Florida announced Friday that it will distribute $5 million to eight Bay County nonprofits to help them with COVID-19-related costs.

The $5 million in federal CARES Act money will dispersed for COVID-19 expenses only. The Bay County Commission decided to give this money to the United Way because it is working on a time crunch to spend it all by Dec. 31.

If the county doesn’t spend all of the $30 million it receives in CARES Act money, then the county will lose it.

Two of the nonprofits United Way chose to receive the money include Rebuild Bay County and the Gulf Coast Children’s Advocacy Center. Both organizations will navigate the time crunch but also separate expenses from two storms — Hurricane Michael and Hurricane Sally — and COVID-19 expenses.

For the Children’s Advocacy Center, which has helped kids who have been abused since 2000, its COVID-19 expenses will be more about the people who work for the Advocacy Center.

“We had to look at moving purchasing everything to move our services to a telehealth platform,” said Lori Allen, the group’s executive director. “We had to buy software; that allowed us to do so. We had to buy equipment.”

Allen added that the Advocacy Center began in-person services June 1 and had to buy equipment like plexiglass, personal protective equipment (PPE), hand sanitizer and increase janitorial services. The organization already has a liability on the books after Hurricane Michael destroyed a facility in Parker. The group has a line of credit to help pay the bills, so the CARES Act money will ease some issues.

The separation between hurricane expenses and COVID-19 expenses will be the most challenging obstacle for Rebuild Bay County and Executive Director Donna Pilson.

“We’re in an interesting position right now because we’re seeing folks that have all of those impacts. They’re having impacts from Michael, Sally and from COVID, so part of our challenge will be to separate that,” Pilson said. “We fully expect for somebody to walk through the door with all of those impacts.’

Pilson added that between now and Dec. 31, the main focus at Rebuild Bay County will be people who have been affected by COVID-19. Whether it is rent/mortage, child care, elder care or food assistance, the main focus will be on if any of those issues were impacted by COVID-19.

Pilson said that in January, her group’s focus will shift back to people who are affected by Hurricane Michael and Hurricane Sally. They know they’re on a time crunch to distribute the money.

Both organizations were prepared for the distribution of the money before it was announced. Rebuild Bay County had been calling organizations in Polk County, Florida, to ask how they organized everything with their CARES Act money.

GC Children’s Advocacy Center’s phones have been ringing off the hook since it announced the distribution Thursday, but they’ve had people working seven days a week to get it done. Allen said that won’t change because they want to help people in their community.

The other local nonprofits selected by United Way to get CARES Act money are: A Hand Up International, AMIkids Panama City Marine Institute, Doorways of Northwest Florida, Early Learning Coalition of Northwest Florida, Family Service Agency and Gulf Beach Baptist Church.

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Bay County non profits to distribute CARES ACT funds

Bay County Commission and United Way of Northwest Florida to assist the public

WJHG – Nov. 6, 2020 – United Way of Northwest Florida announced that eight non-profit agencies have been chosen to distribute $5 million in Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) funds in Bay County.

The Bay County Commission selected United Way of Northwest Florida as the lead agency to see that the assistance is delivered to those who have suffered hardships due to COVID-19. The Act was passed in March of this year to provide $2 trillion in financial aid in the United States.

The first round of disbursements through the CARES Act will be to individuals who suffered financial hardships. Specifically, individuals are eligible for assistance in just four areas:

· Rent/Mortgage

· Utilities

· Food

· Child/adult care

Secondary disbursements from the CARES Act fund will assist small businesses and non-profits in Bay County and be available in the near future.

The United Way of Northwest Florida’s Funds Distribution Committee approved eight agencies to provide assistance to Bay County residents:

· A Hand Up International

· AMIkids Panama City Marine Institute

· Doorways of Northwest Florida

· Early Learning Coalition of Northwest Florida

· Family Service Agency

· Gulf Beach Baptist Church

· Gulf Coast Children’s Advocacy Center

· Rebuild Bay County

Each individual agency has its own process for meeting with individuals to provide assistance. The public can go to www.unitedwaynwfl.org for specific information and available hours of assistance. Information is also available at www.baycountyfl.gov or by searching social media for #BayCountyCares.

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United Way Income Tax Assistance goes virtual, calls on new volunteers

Oct 21, 2020 – The News Herald – Alongside almost every other part of residents’ lives, the worldwide health crisis has pushed one local organization to convert its volunteer service into virtual reality.

United Way of Northwest Florida will conduct its free tax preparation service, Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA), online in the upcoming tax season. Its staff is now accepting volunteers to be trained and certified to help some 3,000 local filers maximize their return for the 2020 filing year.

VITA previously offered its services at Bill Cramer Chevrolet, but shut down when the pandemic was declared.

“The only way we bring this to the community is through the volunteer effort,” United Way Finance Director Hollee Hansen said. “All of our volunteers will be able to be in their homes.”

The VITA volunteer cache has dwindled from 42 to 10 since the pandemic swept the country in March. Many of its former volunteers were retirees and senior citizens who typically have additional hours to spare. However, with COVID-19 having the greatest impact on older people, United Way is diversifying its volunteer base to target younger groups.

United Way is looking for computer knowledgeable people to fulfill virtual and drop-off duties, officials said. However, literally anybody can become a volunteer.

“Even a high school student — that’s the beauty of it,” Hansen said, noting the organization has partnered with high schools and technical schools in the past. “We, ultimately, want self-sufficiency in our community so that people are not afraid to file their own taxes.”

“Our volunteers are fully certified. We have a 98% acceptance with the IRS,” she added. “They’re very well trained.”

Volunteers will undergo a three-day training program in late December or early January. After completing the training, volunteers will be equipped to file taxes for themselves and others. VITA also offers a small stipend to its volunteers.

Saving $200 to $500 per return and check cashing fees during the past decade, the program owes its success to its volunteers who dock dozens of hours each tax season. 

“We really just want to let the public know we’re looking for new volunteers,” United Way Communications Director Ken McVay said. “We will have a very difficult time fulfilling the requirements that are going to be asked of us to do taxes if we don’t get some more volunteer help.” 

If you’re interested in becoming a VITA volunteer, go online to http://unitedwaynwfl.org/vita/.

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United Way of NW Fla. to help distribute $5 million in CARES Act funding

Oct. 20, 2020 – WMBB – The United Way of Northwest Florida is partnering with the Bay County Commission to help disperse millions of dollars in CARES act funding to county residents. 

The agreement was approved at Tuesday’s county commission meeting, giving the United Way five million dollars for local organizations to apply for in order to better serve the residents who need their help.

“I’m really excited about the opportunity to do it,” said United Way of NW FL President, Bryan Taylor. “It’s going to be a challenge, because you wouldn’t think, it’s a lot of money to get rid of and get away in 6 weeks, and get out there amongst the people.”

The funding can go to organizations helping residents with rental and mortgage payments, utilities, obtaining food, childcare, adult care or any other emergency relief related to the COVID-19 pandemic under the CARES act. 

“They’ve been a very good partner through us especially after Hurricane Michael, so we know their capabilities, we know what their abilities are to get the money into the people that really need it,” said County Commission Chairman, Philip “Griff” Griffitts. “It’s a very successful partnership and we’re looking forward to getting it working.”

Any 501(c)(3) organization or agency looking to help disperse some of this funding should send the United Way of Northwest Florida a letter of intent no later than 4 p.m. on Friday, October 23rd. Agencies can send that letter via email to info@unitedwaynwfl.org.

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Bay County sending $5 million of CARES money to United Way of NWFL to help distribute

Oct 20, 2020 – The News Herald – Bay County commissioners on Tuesday approved sending $5 million in CARES Act money to the United Way of Northwest Florida.

United Way and its partners must use the money for COVID-19 expenses. The $5 million is part of the $30 million the county will receive from the CARES Act. The money must be used by Dec. 31.

Most of the money was first allocated for county and local municipalities’ expenses. After that, county officials looked for ways to distribute the money that was left.

County officials said the United Way was an obvious choice, especially considering the organization’s efforts after Hurricane Michael.

“United Way has been a great partner in Bay County for many, many years. Especially after the hurricane, we leaned on them to work with these nonprofits in the community,” said Philip Griffitts, chairman of the commission. “We know their capabilities and we know their abilities to get the money to the people who really need it.”

Griffitts said county officials hope to distribute more CARES money. They have about eight weeks to do so.

Organizations will be able to apply for the money through United Way. They will be chosen based on their ability to manage and get money into the community. Officials said Doorways of NWFL, Rebuild Bay County, and similar agencies will receive money.

Some of the COVID-19 expenses that will be covered include job losses, furloughs and other expenses such as rent and utilities.

“These agencies are going to have to make applications to us and they’re going to have to be approved and if they meet the criteria to distribute these funds, the applications will be approved,” said Bryan Taylor, president of United Way of NWFL. “Then people will come to them (agencies) to receive assistance and people are already knocking on their door and have been knocking on their door.”

Organizations must have 501c3 status to apply, but Taylor emphasized that the $5 million grant money is not restricted to traditional United Way of NWFL affiliate agencies. He said the United Way will make funds available to all organizations that meet the criteria.

While time seems like a constraint, Taylor said he is confident his organization will be able to distribute the $5 million quickly.

He also said he is excited that the county chose United Way for the grant.

“Before my United Way days, I was just a great big Boy Scout. Worked for them for years and did my civic duty and I consider this a part of that,” Taylor said. “I’m really excited and it’s going to be a challenge because it’s a lot of money to give away.”

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BOCC and United Way to Distribute CARES Act Funds

Oct. 20, 2020 – WJHG – The Bay County Commission is getting some help with the distribution of CARES Act funds from a local not for profit agency. The commission voted to enter into an agreement with United Way Of Northwest Florida to speed up the delivery of five million dollars to the local economy.

United Way’s role will be to identify and qualify local 501c.3 agencies who will distribute the cash to the public. The money will help provide assistance to residents impacted by the pandemic for items like food, housing, child and adult care.

The money will be made available through an application process.

BOCC Chairman, Philip Griffitts said “United Way, they’ve been a very good partner to us, especially after Hurricane Michael. So we know their capabilities, we know what their abilities are to get the money into the people that really need it. So it’s a very successful partnership and we’re looking forward to getting it working.”

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Rebuild Bay County will distribute 20,000 lbs. of food

June 24, 2020 – WJHG – Rebuild Bay County will be giving away over 20,000 pounds of food on Saturday, June 27.

The food distribution will start at 10:00 a.m. and go until supplies run out. The distribution will be at Waller Elementary.

To help with social distancing, organizers ask that you stay in your car and pop your trunk so the food can be put in by volunteers.

Rebuild Bay County officials say they have provided close to 6,000 meals since the beginning of COVID-19. The meals were provided thanks to a grant by The United Way of Northwest Florida, food provided by Feeding the Gulf Coast, and volunteers and donations from multiple agencies.

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Hurricane Michael Relief Fund is accepting final applications for aid

May 26, 2020 – WMBB – The United Way of Northwest Florida has approved the distribution of $195,000 from their Hurricane Disaster Fund in an effort to close out their campaign. 

The campaign was started after Hurricane Michael to support recovery efforts for local nonprofit agencies. 

The deadline to apply is 4:30 pm on June 17, 2020 and the application can be found on their website at www.unitedwaynwfl.org. Award recipients and amounts will be chosen by local volunteers. The funding is only available to 501(c)3 non profits.

After starting the campaign in 2018, they continued to receive donations through 2020.  Ken McVay, Communications Director said that after the fund closes out, they will have disbursed a total of $1.3 million. 

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United Way of Northwest Florida Distributes over $275,000

May 6, 2020 – WJHG – The United Way of Northwest Florida Board of Directors approved the distribution of more than $275,000 from the COVID-19 Relief Fund.

In addition, United Way of Northwest Florida Board of Directors voted to add $112,000 from the Community Impact Fund to the COVID-19 Relief Fund for distribution.

“During this difficult time, our agency and community partners are suffering the effects of this pandemic,” said United Way of Northwest Florida CEO Bryan Taylor. “We’re fortunate to have great community partners who have made this distribution possible with their thoughtful donations.”

United Way of Northwest Florida’s Funds Distribution Committee met virtually to distribute the funds available. Combined, there were more than $643,000 in requests for client services and agency resources from area non-profits.

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United Way gives $275,000 to different local organizations

May 6, 2020 – WMBB – The United Way of Northwest Florida spread around some major funding on Wednesday.

The charitable organization gave away $275,000 from its community impact fund. A large part of that came from the Gulf Power Foundation.

About 30 different organizations like the Boys and Girls Club, Girls Inc, and Family Services will receive funding from United Way.

United way officials say the need in the community is larger than ever.

“There was $275,000, a little over that in the pot to distribute. But the need of those 30 agencies, what they requested was over $630,000. So the need is definitely still there,” said United Way Communications Director, Ken Mcvay.

The United Way mailed many of the checks this week. The rest will be hand-distributed Thursday and Friday.

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More than 55 percent of the population in the Central Panhandle is ALICE or lives below the federal poverty line

May 5, 2020 – WMBB – When COVID-19 hit, nearly 2.6 million Florida households were one emergency away from financial ruin.

According to the state’s latest ALICE Report, United Way of Northwest Florida reported on Monday that more than 55 percent of household in the counties it serves are ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) or living below the federal poverty line. United way of Northwest Florida serves Bay, Calhoun, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson and Washington counties.

“The number is staggering to know that more than half the population in our area lives below that line,” said United Way of Northwest Florida Communications Director, Ken McVay.

The data released is from 2018 and United Way believes the numbers were accumulated before or just around the time Hurricane Michael hit.

“Difficulty came after Hurricane Michael, so all of 2019 you think of all the people that were still in recovery from the hurricane… and then combine that with people now in 2020 facing the unexpected displacement of not having a job because of the COVID-19,” McVay said.

United Way hopes these stats show the great need for non-profits in the area. The organization is able to help their agency partners through donations. The donations enable them to provide financial support such as the COVID-19 Relief Funds to non-profits, such as The Arc of The Bay.

The Arc of the Bay Executive Director, Ron Sharpe, said the funding will allow them to continue to teach those with disabilities during the pandemic.

“We got ten chrome books, it’s a start to be able to make contact and teach and share those same essential things that will help them,” Sharpe said.

Numbers are being recompiled and data is expected to be released later this year that will take into account those effected by COVID-19.

“When we hear live united, its brining us all together, meeting the needs of the community,” Sharpe said.

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United Way report shows many living paycheck to paycheck or below poverty line

May 4, 2020 – WJHG – According to the United Way of Northwest Florida, more than 55 percent of the population in the six counties it covers are struggling financially or under the federal poverty line.

Ken McVay, the Communications Director United Way of Northwest Florida said, “In our six-county area, we see these critical needs of people from a financial standpoint on a regular basis.”

They say others fall under the ALICE program or Asset Limited, Income Constrained but Employed, which measures those who are above the poverty line but still cannot afford more than a bare-bones household budget with just their paycheck.

McVay said, “This 55 percent of people who are at the ALICE threshold or below the poverty line are people who are basically one paycheck away from being scared to death if they’re going to be able to pay their household bills.”

The data was compiled in 2018 so officials aren’t sure how the coronavirus will affect the numbers, but the current data can be broken down to show where help is needed the most.

“It gives you ages, different demographics so we’re able to pinpoint specific areas. Then, we can help our agency partners that are affiliated with us to be able to identify where there are critical needs in their service area,” said McVay.

One of those partners is Girls Inc. and they say the data is essential for the program.

Niki Kelly, the Executive Director for Girls Inc. of Bay County said, “The ALICE numbers are critical to us when it comes to writing grants or seeking funding so people can truly understand what the need is for our families. The old poverty level guidelines don’t really paint an accurate picture of how much families are struggling and that’s what we need people to understand when we’re asking them for help.”

A study into the ALICE numbers shows the cost of survival can range from more than $24,000 to almost $70,000 depending on age and family size, while the median yearly wage in Florida is just over $22,000.

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United Way to host Giving Tuesday to support those during pandemic

May 4, 2020 – WJHG – The United Way of Northwest Florida is getting ready to give back with the Giving Tuesday Now fundraiser.

Giving Tuesday is typically held the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, but this year due to the Coronavirus pandemic, officials wanted to give back earlier.

The fundraiser will start Tuesday morning through the United Way’s Facebook page.

Ken McVay, the Communications Director for the United Way of Northwest Florida said, “The money will go to the United Way to be able to distribute to people who need assistance in our various counties through our affiliated agencies as well.”

Officials say the fundraiser will run all day Tuesday.

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Gulf Power Foundation donates $125,000 to United Way of Northwest Florida for COVID-19 emergency assistance

March 26, 2020 – WJHG – The Gulf Power Foundation has donated $125,000 to the United Way of Northwest Florida to help members of our communities impacted by COVID-19.

“We are excited by the initiative that Gulf Power has taken to advocate on behalf of their local non-profit communities by reaching out to their partners and vendors and encouraging them to contribute to this COVID-19 relief effort,” said Bryan Taylor, President, United Way of Northwest Florida. “With so much uncertainty in our lives right now, it is truly a blessing to be able to be certain that Gulf Power is always going to step up and do the very best they can to support our local non-profit community.”

The money will be used to help with services needed because of the COVID-19 outbreak. The assistance will focus support for families, social service providers, senior services, helping people with disabilities.

“As with their immediate charitable response to Hurricane Michael, Gulf Power continues to be quick to lend support to its non-profit community,” said Darren Haiman, owner of Nation’s Real Estate and chairman of the Board of Directors of United Way of Northwest Florida. “We are very grateful for their generous stewardship.”

Gulf Power is committing $500,000 to United Way organizations across Northwest Florida including the United Way Emerald Coast.

Gulf Power is also suspending disconnections and providing payment extensions for customers experiencing hardship. For customers needing help as a result of COVID-19, Gulf Power has resources available.

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Publix markets recognized for good deeds around town

Feb. 26, 2020 – WJHG – The United Way visited five Publix locations Wednesday to celebrate the 40-year partnership the two share.

Publix and its employees gave more than $65 million to the United Way in 2018.

That money goes toward helping many nonprofits around the area and country.

The CEO of the United Way of Northwest Florida, representatives from local nonprofits, and local mayors all spoke at five Publix locations around our area to show the employees how their donations are helping the community.

“Publix is a partner, wherever they go, and I think that goes back, that’s a big part of George Jenkins legacy is that, we are going to impact the communities we are in, we are going to rely on them to make a living and we are going to help them make a life,” said Bryan Taylor, the President & CEO United Way of NWFL. Publix donates the second highest amount in the world to the United Way.

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Publix recognized by United Way for 40-year partnership

Feb. 26, 2020 – WMBB — Purchasing a Publix sub-sandwich contributes to more than just a favorite evening meal.

Publix Appreciation Day was celebrated today, where locations around the community were recognized for their partnership with United Way of Northwest Florida. Annually the grocery chain raises funds for the organization that go to support community programs around town.

This year the Publix location on 23rd street alone raised 48,334 dollars and was recognized for the accomplishment. The funds were funneled into the community to assist local relief agencies with their work, according to representatives for each organization.

Associates representing the Anchorage Children’s’ Home, Girls Inc., the Boys and Girls Club, and many more community-oriented organizations attended the celebration to show their support.

Tyler Watkins, 23rd St. Publix Store Manager, says this is an important day not only for him, but also for his teammates.

“What stands out the most is our associates and what we do to give back to the community,” he said. “It is really in our culture to give back, and it is a very proud moment for me and my team to make a big impact in the communities that we serve.”

Watkins says that he is now a part of the United Way Board and is excited for next year’s campaign.

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