Looking Back at 2022, Looking Forward to 2023

By United Way of King County, on December 28, 2022 | In Breaking the Cycle of Poverty, Events, Fighting Homelessness, Helping Students Graduate, News

Thousands of households in need of groceries got them delivered in the same way that folks order out for pizza. Tens of thousands of schoolchildren who once didn’t have access to free meals at school now eat heartily. Millions of dollars of hard-earned income were returned to workers in the form of tax returns.

This is how the more than 130 employees at United Way of King County respond when asked, “What do you have to show for 2022?”

Our mantra is that we work for a racially just community where all people have homes, students graduate and families are financially stable. We have helped make that possible through our perennial programs such as Breakfast After the Bell, which provides nutritious food for students in schools where at least 70 percent of students are eligible for free and reduced meals.

United Way of King County partnered with agencies to provide culturally specific groceries to families in need.

This year, more than 75 school districts across Washington state have implemented Breakfast After the Bell thanks to UWKC support, with over 49,000 additional kids now connected to school breakfast. That’s due to passage of Washington state legislation to expand free school meals to more kids. More than 1,200 schools are now offering free meals to all their student body—encompassing 543,618 students, or more than half of all K-12 students in the state.

Last winter, United Way of King County helped develop and pass the state legislation that made possible free meals to more students, and the mandate has been a critical support as federal COVID-19 relief supports end.

Said Sara Seelmeyer, United Way senior manager, food security & benefits access: “It’s one of the best examples of long-term policy and systems change that resulted from the pandemic.”

Stickers of popular food delivery options are seen at the storefront of the Bambuza restaurant in Portland, Oregon,
United Way partnered with DoorDash to make more than 6,700 deliveries a week via its Home Grocery Delivery program.

And that’s just one example of our efforts to provide food for those in need in 2022, as the area slowly transitioned toward post-pandemic normalcy.

  • United Way’s Home Grocery Delivery Program made more than 230,000 deliveries in 2022, reaching over 6,000 households with regular grocery deliveries. This program distributed over 5.5 million pounds of food this year alone—the equivalent of 19 blue whales.
  • United Way distributed over $5 million through our Community Food Fund this year, in partnership with Public Health—Seattle & King County. Our partner agencies provided culturally specific services to more than 10,000 households in our community.

In 2022, United Way also continued our efforts to help solve the region’s homelessness crisis. We believe that the best way to do so is to keep people already housed from losing their dwellings. To that end, we partnered with the City of Seattle and King County to spend $73 million in rental assistance through our Home Base program, serving 7,000 households. About 70% of households assisted were Black, Indigenous, or other households of color. It is one of the reasons in 2022 we became King County’s distributor of rental assistance dollars, and we are now disbursing $1 million a week in assistance.

Paul L. Smith lives in an apartment about 200 feet from where he once slept on the streets. He is among many who benefitted from United Way programs to assist people experiencing homelessness.

United Way also partnered with the King County-based Lived Experience Coalition, a diverse, multigenerational community of people who have endured homelessness, victimization, emotional or physical violence, or mistreatment in the criminal justice system. Launched in 2018, the Coalition was formed to ensure that it sits at tables where solutions to the crisis are being discussed.

In 2022, United Way supported the Lived Experience Coalition in securing $1 million of federal Emergency Food and Shelter Program funds, leveraging additional funds to support the downtown efforts. United Way also granted the Coalition $330,000 for a pilot creating a new version of Streets to Home to connect temporarily housed people with employment.

“Homelessness is solvable,” said Wayne Wilson, United Way community impact manager for homelessness and housing. “It’s solvable when we decide as a community that we are going to create enough spaces and places for all people to live in a safe, clean environment.”

Musang Restaurant chef and owner Melissa Miranda joined chef and restaurant owner Ethan Stowell for a cooking class as part of United Way’s Eat, Drink & Be Generous virtual event series. All dollars raised from ticket prices and donations will support our community by fighting homelessness, helping students graduate and ensuring that all families are financially stable.

Meanwhile, United Way’s AmeriCorps VISTA program has made considerable impact midway through the program’s calendar year. As of November, VISTA members have worked with 165 agencies to help 2,500 children succeed in school, provided 950,000 emergency meals, and assisted 170 adults seeking employment opportunities and job training. Additionally, United Way’s 30 Summer Associates supported 10 different community agencies at more than 30 meals sites.

Paul Oh, site manager and coordinator for University of Washington Bothell’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program.

Then there’s our Free Tax Preparation Campaign. From January to April of 2022, United Way’s Free Tax Preparation Campaign processed 6,350 income tax returns and found $11 million in refunds for filers. United Way is still seeking volunteers to work at our sites for this year’s Free Tax Prep Campaign. To sign up, click here.

What’s in store for 2023?

United Way of King County CEO Gordon McHenry, Jr., and former United Way campaign co-chair (and Seahawks great) Doug Baldwin at the first Annual Community BBQ.

Don’t miss our second Annual Community BBQ! It’s slated for August 12 in Renton and promises to be as awesome as the inaugural event in 2022.

Also, United Way has inked an $18 million contract with King County to distribute rental assistance through next May. We will also capitalize on major program policy changes next year that will enable us to pay tenants directly if a landlord refuses to accept program terms, serving households up to 80% Area Median Income, which is the median income for a home in a particular region. Previously the AMI for households served was 50 percent.

Jake Janesch, United Way program manager for rental assistance & homeless prevention, said the changes mean United Way can serve households as many times as possible with rental assistance for up to 15 full months of assistance. Janesch said that, previously, households could be served only once, even if they needed additional assistance.

See you in 2023!

As we look forward to 2023 and close out 2022, United Way would like to thank you for all your support this year. Thanks for your partnership in our work. Thanks for caring about your neighbor, your community and our future.


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