During the fiscal year that ended in June 30, 2020, United Way of the Midlands (UWM) raised $19.4 million for programs and initiatives serving the Omaha-Council Bluffs metro. In addition to the investments announced in June, UWM will distribute an additional $1.5 million during its second round of investments to support the expanding needs in our community due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This was made possible by the generous support of individual donors, corporate partners, family foundations, the UWM Board of Directors and the 2019 Campaign Chairs, James and Paula Blackledge.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the physical, mental and financial health of our neighbors, our community is experiencing unprecedented levels of need. According to the Census, 38% of Nebraska households reported someone having a loss in employment income since March. In addition, 42% of adults in Nebraska and Iowa live in households where eviction or foreclosure in the next two months is either very likely or somewhat likely.

Long-term effects of COVID-19 are also compounding. As we enter a new school year, great efforts have been made by parents, teachers and districts to create safe learning conditions for our students. Still, we are hearing initial reports that reflect challenges for low-income students in particular – from broadband access to students logging in to disruptions during digital classes. Research estimates students will experience seven months of learning loss on average due to COVID-19, and 1 in 4 youth could become disconnected from work or school.

To address these challenges, UWM will distribute its second round of funding to local education and financial stability programs. Funded education programs such as the Early Childhood Education Program at the YMCA will provide out-of-school time, mentoring and/or early education supports. Funded financial stability programs will provide asset development; job training; post-secondary education support; personal finance classes and, through a collaboration with the Omaha Federation of Labor, upskilling/reskilling of the workforce. These programs include the Micro Business and Asset Development program at Catholic Charities of Omaha, Employment and Career Services program at the Urban League of Nebraska and the Financial Stability Program for Immigrants at the Midlands Latino Community Development Corporation, which are working with those disproportionately affected by COVID-19 in North and South Omaha.

“We’ve seen the community’s needs expand and change as the pandemic continues, especially in the areas of education and financial stability,” said Shawna Forsberg, President and CEO of UWM. “We have concern that wage, education and other gaps will continue to widen for low-income families. These widespread impacts have highlighted the critical need to support vulnerable populations here in the Omaha-Council Bluffs metro.”

In July, UWM shortened its community investments from a two-year to a one-year timeframe and created two rounds of funding, ensuring we could remain flexible and address quickly evolving community needs. During the first funding disbursement, UWM invested donor dollars into programs immediately responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, with a significant portion of the total investment allotted to programs meeting people’s basic needs.

In total, UWM is funding 115 programs at 66 nonprofit agencies across the Omaha-Council Bluffs metro. Together, these programs and initiatives will form a circle of support for our neighbors so they can tackle multiple challenges at once. When more people can meet their needs, we build a community where more people have the opportunity to grow and thrive. For a full list of programs funded through UWM’s Community Care Fund, please visit www.unitedwaymidlands.org/programs.

As UWM continues to serve those who need it most, we will need the support of the community more than ever. If you would like to help our neighbors get back on their feet during this challenging time, you can make a gift at www.unitedwaymidlands.org/donate.

About United Way of the Midlands United Way of the Midlands (UWM) has served the Omaha-Council Bluffs metro for more than 95 years. Guided by best practices and community input, it approaches poverty in a specific way – a “united” way. With the support of volunteers, community partners and donors, UWM invests donor dollars efficiently and effectively in our local community. These dollars fund basic needs, education and financial stability programs at local nonprofits, creating a circle of support for people in need. Please visit unitedwaymidlands.org for more information.

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