The new year is here, and with it comes the start of a new state legislative session. Between on-boarding staff and learning the ropes of their new roles, several newly-elected state senators and representatives made time to spend a morning learning about the work of United Way for Southeastern Michigan and how we can be a helpful resource both in serving their constituents and drafting good public policy.
During the meeting, legislators and United Way staff discussed the things that matter most to our community. This included issues like access to high-quality education and removing barriers to employment.
Participating legislators included representatives-elect Cynthia Johnson (D-Detroit), Laurie Pohutsky (D-Livonia), Matt Maddock (R-Milford) and Mari Manoogian (D-Birmingham) and Joseph Tate (D-Detroit); senators-elect Marshall Bullock (D-Detroit) and Mallory McMorrow (D-Royal Oak); Rep. Christine Greig (D-Farmington Hills); and staff from the offices of representative-elect Dayna Polehanki (D-Livonia) and senators-elect Rosemary Bayer (D-Beverly Hills) and Adam Hollier (D-Detroit).
Community needs and priorities were discussed, including education, the environment and the economy. Specifically raised were issues of clean water, early childhood education, child care, health care, unemployment and job skills training.
Legislators learned about United Way’s work in Education, Economic Prosperity and Health. They visited our 2-1-1 call center, where we connect people in need to support services in the community.
They also learned about United Way’s ongoing efforts to inform and influence policy discussions through advocacy.
“At United Way, we have a strong vision for our community,” United Way Director of Policy, Advocacy and Government Relations Kyle DuBuc said to legislators. “The positions we take on policy issues are rooted in our work and aim to advance our mission on behalf of the people we serve.”
This includes both federal issues — such as SNAP legislation and healthcare — and state legislative issues like mass transit and voter rights. United Way also works with state legislators to promote the importance of funding for our 2-1-1 helpline. Each year, 2-1-1 connects nearly 200,000 people each year with resources like shelter, food and utility assistance.
Representative-elect Tate (D-Detroit) came to learn about how he can work with United Way on his legislative priorities. On the top of his list is building an inclusive economy that serves the needs of a broad population — from high-income earners to those living below the federal poverty level.
“I knew the work of United Way, and I was particularly interested in learning more about the ALICE report,” he said.
Released annually, our ALICE report shows that nearly half of the residents in our area live paycheck to paycheck.
“I service a unique area with a lot of households that fall in that ALICE gap, so social services are important in my community.”