An important message from the President & CEO
Dear Community Ally,
I hope you, your families and your work families are all staying safe and keeping healthy during these challenging times. It is my wish that the occasion of my letter was to discuss better times, but I’m afraid that’s not the case. Quite frankly, I’m worried. Whereas you are an important person to Heart of Florida United Way, and a stakeholder in our important work, I felt it necessary to share what the team at Heart of Florida United Way (HFUW) and I are seeing on the horizon.
As you may know, HFUW has received more than 14,000 requests for rent and mortgage assistance after launching the COVID-19/ALICE Recovery Fund on March 17. These requests are coming from ALICE – Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed – families and individuals who were already one emergency away from financial ruin. Well, that emergency, COVID-19, is here! Generous partners have stepped up to contribute to the fund with efforts totaling nearly $1.9 million. We’re proud of the effort and thankful for this financial support from companies, foundations and individual donors. However, the overwhelming reality is that while receiving $1.9 million in donations, we’ve received in excess of $16 million in requests for assistance. Clearly, we will not be able to meet the needs of all those needing help.
In anticipation of Governor DeSantis’ eviction moratorium lifting on July 1, and an expected surge in evictions, HFUW recently hosted a panel discussion with experts at the center of the issue representing the courts, law enforcement and legal aid. This eye-opening conversation put into perspective exactly what is headed our way – thousands of families being evicted. Families who – through no fault of their own – having received limited, or no income at all in months, are thousands of dollars behind on rent, and have no hope for things to change. The obvious consequence of these evictions will be homelessness, but there are so many other social consequences that can influence the trajectory of someone’s life. Homelessness is just the tip of the iceberg. Kids will be pulled out of their schools. Families won’t be able to find other affordable housing options due to incredibly low inventory in Central Florida. That means less proximity to shopping and transit, fewer job opportunities in affordable areas, access to healthcare, damaged credit – and everything else that comes with eviction. The list is long.
With demands already pushing the ALICE Recovery Fund well beyond capacity, Orange County Government’s individual assistance program taking 50,000 calls in a matter of minutes, COVID-19 case numbers continuing to increase, lay-offs and bankruptcies popping up, unemployment and requests for unemployment assistance at record highs – the needs of individuals and families in our community continue to overwhelm non-profits and assistance programs.
While non-profits receive increased demands for resources and services, they are also challenged by decreased fundraising revenue. This is true for direct assistance funds and to operate their non-profit business. Non-profits are faced with having to close their doors, and those of us left standing are looking at a tidal wave of need about to land in our already over-stretched community safety net.
I’m sharing the reality of what is about to happen, not to be dramatic, but to make sure that you understand the sheer importance of your role.
As leaders in the community who are able to get things done, I need you to understand the gravity of what we’re about to endure. As an investor in our work, I want you to understand how vital your support is at this time.
If you offer a workplace campaign, I implore you to continue giving your employees the chance to contribute – as opposed to cancelling the campaign and not even giving them the option. Hundreds of non-profits, including Heart of Florida United Way, need financial support to even have a chance of addressing the crisis that’s about to hit.
As someone who is close to United Way and our mission, I wanted you to hear this from me first. On Wednesday, we will be holding a press conference in which we will be sharing the impact to the safety net that so many of our neighbors in need depend on, and I will be making a similarly urgent plea to the community.
Inaction is not an option. We cannot just let the process play out. Failing to act will result in thousands of homeless families. That is a fact. To me, inaction, and its results, are unacceptable. If anyone doubts the urgency for us to act, and that we should let it play out, please…give me your house keys while we ‘let it play out’. Let’s see if that changes your perspective.
We’ve become known as a community that comes together in challenging times. I’m calling on our community to come together once again. We need all sectors – public, private and non-profit – to work together to coordinate efforts.
To that end, I welcome an invitation to discuss ideas, collaborate or share information. At times like this, there is no other way to be than united.
President & CEO
Heart of Florida United Way