Jordan Olive is a 23-year-old single mom who is working hard to provide for her baby. She is diligent about her spending, especially when expenses are avoidable. “A lot of places will charge you money to do your taxes. Last year I got it done, they charged me around $300. As a single mom, to get my taxes done for free, it means a lot. I’m really grateful.”
United Way believes that improving financial stability is one of the four keys to leading a quality life, along with education, health and basic needs. Recently, partners invested in improving Central Florida’s well-being gathered for a one-stop-shop event related to all aspects of United Way’s focus areas. The Super Saturday event was held at Barry University School of Law and saw hundreds of people turn out for the free services which covered education, income, health and basic needs.
In addition to free tax preparation through Volunteer Income Tax Assistance, Healthcare Marketplace Navigators were on-site to help residents enroll in health insurance before the February 15 enrollment deadline. This year, under the Affordable Care Act, penalties for adults without insurance climb significantly – from $95 or 1 percent of income to $325 or 2 percent of income, whichever is higher. So not only is enrolling good for your health, but also for your wallet.
“Too often people just pick the first – or cheapest – plan that pops up and don’t take the time to explore all of the options available to them,” said Anne Packham, marketplace exchange project coordinator at Primary Care Access Network. “Even when consumers do dig deeper and evaluate their options, they often don’t know the questions to ask to identify the best possible plan, which is why it’s so important for people to meet with someone who has comprehensive knowledge about the health insurance marketplace. We’re happy to be enrolling people before the deadline today. ”
When it comes to education and basic needs, those focus areas were also covered with opportunities for FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) applications and SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) enrollment.
“Many people don’t realize that they qualify for these programs,” said Mark Batchelor, manager of Financial Stability Initiatives for Heart of Florida
United Way. “But, these resources are there to help them through tough times. It’s our job to make sure we’re connecting those in need with the support available to them.”
With support mechanisms in place to fill in the gaps, struggling families won’t have to choose between food and utilities. They will be able to make their way to greater financial stability and United Way’s ultimate goal of self-sufficiency. Like Michelle*, a current client of United Way’s Homelessness Prevention Program. She approached the United Way table in the vendor fair close to tears.
“Thank you for your help. I don’t know where I’d be without United Way right now,” she said as she showed pictures of her healthy three-month-old baby boy. “This event is great because I don’t have to take a taxi all over town to take care of my taxes and other business. I’m sorry I’m emotional, it’s just such a relief.”
United Way’s focus on improving financial stability clearly seeps into all other aspects of life. Education, income, health and basic needs are all interconnected. That’s why United Way works hard to get to the root issue, to provide people like Michelle and Jordan relief and solutions.
*Name changed due to privacy.