The Importance of Being an Advocate

United Way of Southeast Louisiana engages in policy and advocacy work around issues that our community have indicated are of the highest importance. As more people become familiar with our work around important policy issues, this has raised some concerns among some of our supporters. Is our United Way becoming political, you may ask; and does United Way still represent me and my values as a member of this community?

At United Way of Southeast Louisiana, we work across the aisle - with both parties - to find solutions that are win-win, and benefit us all. Our mission is to eradicate poverty in our region, which we know is a bold proposition - but we believe it is entirely achievable. In Louisiana, 42% of our families are living in poverty, or struggling to make ends meet. We know how to lift families out of poverty: children born healthy, and entering school ready to learn; good jobs, quality education, and pathways to sustainable careers; and lifelong access to quality, affordable healthcare. These are the same objectives that United Way has always focused on in our 91 years of service to this region, and while we feel proud that we have been doing the right things to move the needle on poverty, we know there is still much work to be done.

That’s why we collaborate with experts on the issues of education, income, and health to develop holistic solutions that drive indicators in each of these areas. From that expertise, we advocate for changes to bring needed funding back into our community and to keep our families safer. 

This year we are working with our legislators to increase funding for high quality childcare, to bring access to STEM learning to our children, to get rid of the “tampon tax”, and to strengthen protections for families experiencing domestic violence. In addition, we're supporting the common sense measures to reduce the nonviolent prison population through criminal justice reform.

Through our advocacy work, we are able to leverage dollars invested in our work to nearly double that amount in funding and services returned to our community, by means such as Medicaid Expansion, the EITC credit, and others. We know that no matter how much we as a community give in dollars and cents, fundraising alone will not resolve the challenges that keep our families struggling. We need to have access to quality healthcare, and that’s why United Way of Southeast Louisiana advocated for Medicaid Expansion. We need to have high quality education for our children, and well-paying jobs. That’s why we have supported equal pay initiatives in recent years – it’s one of simplest ways to lift families out of poverty – and why we’ve previously supported higher standards in education along with certification for early childcare providers. These things create the pathways to prosperity that will build a better, stronger, and safer community for all of us.

Rest assured that your United Way is not political. Our decades of work in the community and with experts in multiple fields  allow us to shed light on crucial issues that affect us all. We help inform and educate our legislators about the things that matter most to all of us. We are able to amplify the individual voices of our community members and provide our lawmakers with the input they need in order to represent us effectively. We see this as good stewardship of the time, money, and trust invested in us over the years by this community.

Explore our website to learn more about our Blueprint for Prosperity here, and our advocacy work here, and continue the conversation! Our role here is to fight for the health, education, and financial stability of every person in our community. Have thoughts or concerns?  Drop me a line!

Kiyomi Appleton Gaines
Executive Assistant to Michael Williamson
United Way of Southeast Louisiana