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United Way Suncoast aims to tackle poverty with new $18 million commitment

The funding will be distributed in multi-year grants and will allow the organization to collect data that measures community impact.
The United Way Suncoast serves Pinellas, Hillsborough, Sarasota, Manatee and DeSoto counties.
The United Way Suncoast serves Pinellas, Hillsborough, Sarasota, Manatee and DeSoto counties. [ United Way Suncoast ]
Published Jun. 6|Updated Jun. 8

The United Way Suncoast announced on Monday a new way of funding local nonprofits with a goal of helping its partners create more sustainable programs.

The organization will distribute $18 million over a three-year period to more than 100 programs that work to clear educational and financial barriers for low-income families.

The multi-year grants differ from the United Way’s past distribution model, which required nonprofits to apply annually to receive program funding.

The goal of multi-year funding is to reduce strain on time and resources for both United Way staff and community partners who previously had to go through the rigorous application process each year. It will also better enable the United Way to monitor the effectiveness of programs over a longer term, enabling more data to be collected and analyzed.

United Way Suncoast CEO Jessica Muroff.
United Way Suncoast CEO Jessica Muroff. [ United Way Suncoast ]

“The kind of community challenges that we’re tackling aren’t solved in one-year increments,” said United Way Suncoast CEO Jessica Muroff.

According to Muroff, the move to multi-year grants was born out of a community-needs assessment conducted by the organization a year and a half ago. She said the goal is to collect and analyze reliable data over a period of time to help partners determine how to best meet community need.

Muroff said that the nonprofits that received funding are those working to address the United Way’s three priority focus areas: early learning, financial stability and youth success.

A breakdown of United Way Suncoast's program goals.
A breakdown of United Way Suncoast's program goals. [ United Way Suncoast ]

The announcement follows a United Way report released earlier this year that found far more children face financial hardship in Florida than federal data used to measure poverty shows.

The report used a system of measurement — called the ALICE threshold — that uses census data and cost of living adjustments specific to ZIP codes to identify households that don’t earn enough to afford necessities such as reliable transportation, child care, food and housing. ALICE stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. In short, it’s a measurement of the working poor.

Although just 17% of children in Florida lived below the federal poverty level in 2019, “more than half of children in Florida (56%) lived in households experiencing financial hardship,” according to the report. That accounts for about 2.4 million children.

Muroff said the money is going to fund programs that help families struggling to pay for basics.

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Nearly $6 million is earmarked to be distributed during the first year of investment, and will support more than 100,000 people in the United Way Suncoast’s five-county region, which includes Hillsborough, Pinellas, Manatee, Sarasota, and DeSoto counties.

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