Serving Monroe, Owen, and Greene Counties

The Work Ahead: United Way's Advocacy Agenda 2020

Community members, nonprofit representatives, and civic leaders from around the region gathered on the morning of the October 10 to discuss the 2020 United Way advocacy agenda with Kathryn Habecker, impact and advocacy manager of Indiana United Ways, as a part of the Wake Up! with United Way breakfast series.  
“I think it’s important to remember that advocacy really is inclusive of all people and many different topics,” Habecker said. “There’s a little bit of something for everyone.” 
She told that crowd that sometimes legislators don’t want to hear from advocacy experts or representatives; they want to hear from real people who are experiencing the issues.  
When Habecker asked the attendees what they care about, and what they advocate for, they shared a diverse list of important issues: indigenous rights, education, poverty, war, access to transit, trauma, domestic violence, homelessness, gender and sexuality, and drug addiction. 
When working with these issues and many more, Habecker said that advocacy is looked at on a spectrum. It begins with public awareness and education. 
“It’s having the conversations in your community, thinking about the issues that keep you up at night,” she said, “and considering what’s valuable to you, what’s valuable to your community.” 
Next on the spectrum is grassroots advocacy and coalition building. 
“It’s taking that next step,” Habecker said, “thinking about who your partners in advocacy are.” 
Habecker explained that next on the spectrum is often the smallest piece, even though it is the piece most discussed: lobbying. That is engaging with legislators, trying to affect what policies they support or fight against.  
When all parts of the spectrum are incorporated, there are so many ways to advocate, Habecker said. She explained that advocacy in all areas are important.  
After speaking about advocacy, Habecker began to explain the advocacy focus of Indiana United Ways in 2020. 
Indiana United Ways is non-partisan, issue-focused and solution-based, she told the crowd. As an organization, it works to inform, engage, and build consensus.  
“It’s important for us to consider the needs in our community,” Habecker said.  
Indiana United Ways has three areas for 2020 policy priorities. The first is education, with a focus on making early education enrollment accessible and affordable. The second is health, with focuses on affordable and accessible health care and substance use disorder treatment. The third is financial stability, with a focus on policy that enables individual economic independence.  
Habecker also explained Indiana United Ways’ role in aligning with United Way Worldwide’s priorities. At that level for 2020, the focus in education is early childhood care and education, as well as post-secondary credentials. The focus in health is on accessible care and behavioral health. In financial stability, the focus is on workforce development, housing, and nutrition supports like SNAP.  
The Indiana United Ways’ is also responsible for aligning local United Ways with the priorities of Indiana United Ways and United Way Worldwide, said Habecker. This is so all United Way organizations can advocate effectively at the local, state and federal levels.  
“We work to make sure our members have tools they can use in conversations with legislators and community leaders,” she said.  
Those tools include reports that provide essential data to help support advocacy in the community. 
One important report is the United Way ALICE Report. This report focuses on ALICE families, or those who are Asset-Limited, Income-Constrained, but Employed.  
“We are trying to shed some light on this population of Hoosiers and ensure that their needs are being met, as well,” Habecker said. 
The point-in-time data from 2016 revealed that 30 percent of Monroe County residents are classified as ALICE, while an additional 22 percent are living below the poverty line.  
Additional important data is found in the Pay Day Report from the Indiana Institute for Working Families and the Indiana Assets and Opportunity Network, which investigated the effects of pay day loans in Indiana.  
Pay day loans are small loans with high interest rates, often given with the agreement that the loans will be paid off from the next paycheck. 
The report shows that there were three pay day store fronts in Monroe County as of 2016. Over five years, primarily out-of-state companies drained over $3 million from individuals across Monroe County. The report also found a disproportionate target to low-income communities and communities of color. 
So, what can be done with these tools to effectively advocate in the community? Habecker broke it down into five key steps: educate and learn more, map your relationships, interact with legislators, share data and reports, and make your voice heard. 
She also stressed the important of contacting legislators through phone calls, letters, emails, social media, and committee meetings, as well as the importance of having intentional conversations in the community.  
“To me, this is being a really powerful United Way champion, a powerful advocate, having those intentional, sometimes difficult, conversations with those in your immediate circle,” she said.  
Habecker then explained the circle of interacting with legislators: thank, inform, engage, ask.  
Thank legislators for supporting policy that you do. Inform your legislators on issues that affect policy. Engage with your legislators on important conversations. And ask your legislators to support policies you care about. 
Habecker said you can jump in anywhere on the circle to start to get involved. 
“I know that advocacy can be overwhelming for some people,” she said. “But it's important to just take a step in, to speak up, and speak out for the issues that you care about.” 
Want to learn more about topics discussed related to advocacy? Check out these links to learn more in-depth info.

Kathryn Habecker's Wake Up! Presentation >>

Indiana United Ways Advocacy and Public Policy Resources >>

Indiana United Ways 2018 ALICE Report >>

Indiana Institute for Working Families reports >>

Information to Contact Your Lawmakers >>

The next Wake Up! with United Way breakfast panel will examine “Re-Imagining Health Care for Monroe County and Beyond” Thursday, November 14 at The Mill (642 N Madison St.) Tickets and more info here >>
Wake Up! with United Way is a collaborative project of United Way of Monroe County and Indiana University's Political and Civic Engagement Program, with thanks to Old National Bank for series support.


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