Last July, we rolled out our new strategic plan at United Way. Sometimes these 5-year plans can signal ‘business as usual’ and other times they say ‘change is needed’. This plan was more about the latter. In order to deliver on our promise to build a community where people have homes, students graduate and families are financially stable, we knew we’d have some tough funding decisions to make.
Early on, we knew that the largest changes in funding would be with agencies providing general services to all seniors. Much of what we were funding for seniors was in the way of wellness and social engagement—important work, but work that did not roll up to our highest priorities.
We don’t make these decisions lightly and started conversations with agencies early in 2015 so that they had time to plan. These changes in funding happened, as planned, in July of this year. Some of the changes have garnered attention by the press, like Seattle Times and King 5. We know that cuts are difficult—and even with plenty of planning time can be hard to recover from.
We continue to support seniors, but only in our priority areas: ending homelessness and building financial stability. Funding for Sound Generations had the largest impact, reduced from $871K to $108K. The reduced funding was in areas outside of our priority areas and included a 3-year Wellness Pilot Project that had come to an end, senior centers, caregiver support and health. The $108K funding that remains is to access services with transportation support, helping people stay in their homes. Meals on Wheels is not a program we were funding – and was not part of the recent funding shift.
We know that our population is aging. In fact, 23.7% of people in King County are 55+ – and if you look at older adults living in poverty, that number is 18%. We’re proud that this year, 20% of people served by United Way funding will be people 55 and older.