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United Way of Tarrant County secures $10M for pandemic recovery efforts

Written by Mindia Whittier

The agency celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2022.

Four United Way of Tarrant County initiatives directly addressing areas of community need related to pandemic recovery recently received nearly $10 million in federal funding from the Tarrant County Commissioners Court and City of Fort Worth.

The funds will support initiatives focused on addressing increasing teen gun violence, improving maternal and infant health, reducing economic disparities in 76104 and helping isolated older adults.

Funding comes from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) to help support recovery from the negative socioeconomic and health impacts resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. The Tarrant County Commissioners Court and Fort Worth City Council each held final votes approving applications from United Way and other community-based organizations.

“We are most appreciative of the City Council and County Commissioners’ approval of our proposed ARPA initiatives,” said Leah M. King, president and CEO of United Way of Tarrant County (UWTC). “We’ve seen first-hand how the COVID-19 pandemic has caused even greater difficulties and broadened disparities in our community. We know the approved initiatives will positively impact our most vulnerable populations.”

UWTC selected the initiatives based on a 2019 community assessment that identified areas of significant need including mental and physical health and wellness resources, as well as financial stability. These issues were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

For each of the four funded initiatives, UWTC is engaging the community, pulling together planning teams and confirming partnerships with local organizations. Over the next 18 months, United Way will work with a variety of community-based partners to implement each program.

Approved initiatives to address these chronic areas of need include:

Teen Gun Violence: One Second Collaborative, allocated $4.41 million by the City of Fort Worth and $1.9 million by Tarrant County

The One Second Collaborative is a partnership between UWTC, the Fort Worth Police Department, the City of Fort Worth, Tarrant County and countless additional stakeholders. It brings an evidence-based approach to addressing youth violence through unification and coordination of numerous community-based organizations that deliver street outreach, education, counseling, life coaching and other supports to everyday challenges young people are experiencing.

The initiative includes:

  • Conducting an objective assessment of the nature and scope of the youth gang and violence problem in our communities,
  • Establishing a steering committee of diverse community members and its leaders to identify problems and set program goals,
  • Mobilizing multidisciplinary intervention teams,
  • Reporting progress and outcomes, and
  • Routinely evaluating the effectiveness of the response.

“Gun violence became the leading cause of deaths among teens in 2020,” said King. “The One Second Collaborative represents a call to action to save lives and mitigate violence in our communities.”

Maternal Health: Community Doulas, allocated $1.96 million in funding by Tarrant County

The Maternal Health initiative will launch a community-based doula program to reduce maternal mortality rates, especially among low-income women and women of color.

The maternal mortality rate among Black women in Tarrant County is the second highest in Texas. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, these statistics were significantly below the national average. The pandemic only intensified the problem since women were unable to access medical professionals during pregnancy, which directly affected maternal health outcomes.

The plan behind the maternal health collaboration is to train 120 women and 30 hospital staffers as doulas who will provide peer assistance with patient-centered advocacy to expecting parents. The program will support 144 women in promoting healthy pregnancies and deliveries.

BRAVE/R Together: Strengthening Local Businesses, allocated $1 million in funding by Tarrant County

United Way of Tarrant County and BRAVE/R Together began a partnership in 2021 to address racial inequities in the 76104 zip code. 76104 is the epicenter of disparities in Tarrant County, with the lowest life expectancy in the state and vast differences in income and economic opportunity. For many 76104 business owners, the COVID-19 pandemic caused unforeseeable challenges.

BRAVE/R will support local businesses in getting their minority business certification, which will give them access to capital and technical assistance. The funding will also be used to provide business coaching and access to an online business resource center.

This initiative will help raise the income of small business owners, enabling them to hire more community members at higher wages and competitive benefits by supporting and promoting them.

Social Isolation: Helping the Aging Population, allocated $700,000 in funding by Tarrant County

The Social Isolation project is a collaboration with several agencies focused on the area’s aging population: Area Agency on Aging of Tarrant County, Alzheimer’s Association, The Women’s Center of Tarrant County and Dementia Friendly Fort Worth. The funding will support programs that improve older adults’ physical and psychological well-being and social engagement, resulting in reduced chronic disease rates and improved access to preventative healthcare.

“Older adults, who were already at high-risk for severe illness, were disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Shakita Johnson, executive director for the Area Agency on Aging of Tarrant County, which is part of UWTC. “Months of lockdowns, fear and self-imposed quarantines have exacerbated depression, loneliness and isolation among this group, which, in turn increases their risk of severe illness and death. It’s a vicious cycle that this collaboration will work to interrupt.”

The collaborative programs will provide services to reduce social isolation for more than 3,000 older adults.

United Way of Tarrant County has doubled its impact in the past two years, helping more than 550,000 people through its resources.

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About the author

Mindia Whittier