As United Way for Greater Austin has stepped back our grants due to financial reasons, we are maintaining our commitment to our most robust programs and reinvigorating our work in proven initiatives that support Financial Opportunity and provide access to health care.
We are continuing to leverage our grants in Success By 6 and Target Graduation to help children start school ready to learn and keep them on the path to graduate from high school. We are dedicated to increasing the percent of children who enter school ready to learn to 70 percent by 2015 by continuing to lead a strong, motivated coalition of community advocates.
We are devoted to helping vulnerable students graduate from high school by coordinating strong programs on their campuses, improving the quality of afterschool and summer programs and, essentially, helping students like Kevin – who participated in our Volunteer Project Leadership class and has already started leading projects in our community.
In our Financial Opportunity program this year, we launched Learn Where You Earn (LWYE), an initiative that builds on our strong relationships with companies by bringing financial education courses into the workplace. So far, more than 200 individual have been part of the courses.
They focused on topics like how to budget, manage their debt and save for the future. We will continue to help employees like Savannah, an H-E-B employee who attended the LWYE program and said “I want the chance to build my own life—savings, a home, all those things—and thanks to the financial education I got because of United Way, I have a chance to do that.”
Along with this innovative program, we are continuing our Bank On Central Texas program, which has already helped nearly 9,000 Central Texans open bank accounts for a potential savings of $4 million in check-cashing fees. We are supporting tax centers, where our work helped more than 12,000 individuals file tax returns and save more than $10 million through the Earned Income Tax Credit.
We are also focusing our health care work through our Navigation Center, which connected more than 375,000 calls to community resources in 2011, including referring 50,000 individuals to basic needs assistance and helping 35,000 people apply for government health care plans.
In Central Texas, as many as 75% of emergency room visits are preventable. By connecting callers to available health care, the Navigation Center is helping prevent such visits by assessing whether callers are eligible for health insurance programs or the Medical Access Program, scheduling appointments for low-cost health care programs and enrolling eligible individuals in affordable health care.
While Austin is a unique city with unique opportunities, the needs in our community are great and we will only thrive and prosper when economic opportunities are available to everyone. With these strategic efforts, we are solving problems not just for one person with one need, but creating solutions for a large community with large needs. As we move forward with our work, we know we need everyone to join with us as we continue to provide innovative programs and explore new opportunities for strategic partnerships. We invite you to join us and commit to make a difference for Central Texas.
[UPDATED] With final numbers for 2012 in, the tax centers we support helped more than 16,000 individuals for a savings of more than $12 million through the EITC.