More than 100 United Way representatives from around the state converged on Tallahassee in November for Capitol Days 2022. The contingent included United Way Suncoast CEO Jessica Muroff, Chief Impact Officers Bronwyn Beightol and Emery Ivery, and a host of other team members and United Way volunteers including YLS chair and Women United member Kiana Romeo.
The attendees enjoyed the opportunity to meet with a host of state legislators including Sen. Ed Hooper (Clearwater), Sen. Jeff Brandes (St. Petersburg), Rep. Fentrice Driskell (Tampa), Rep. Chris Latvala (Clearwater), Rep. Andrew Learned (Brandon) and Natalie Brown, the top legislative aide for Sen. Danny Burgess (Zephyrhills). Team members passionately addressed the policy makers about United Way Suncoast’s core focuses: early learning, youth success and financial stability. They also spoke about the pandemic’s impact on ALICE families, including the current eviction crisis.
“As a volunteer and donor, it was impressive to see the UWS staff in action as they offered solutions to help tackle our communities’ most pressing needs,” Romeo said. “The work they are doing is improving lives and seemed to resonate with many from both chambers. I hope the topics discussed will become the catalyst for overarching legislation offered by the Florida House and Senate.”
A separate morning session allowed participants to hear reports from a range of state and federal agencies. State Senators Tom Wright (Port Orange) and Victor Torres, Jr. (Kissimmee) discussed the needs of the state’s veteran population.
The presentations also included insightful comments from Matthew Mears, the state’s chancellor of early learning, CareerSource board chair Stephanie Smith and vice chancellor of career and adult education Tara Goodman.
Florida Chamber of Commerce Foundation vice president of equality of opportunity Kyle Baltuch delivered fascinating research about the difference between an affluent zip code and impoverished zip code. Brittany Birken, principal adviser for the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, enlightened the audience about the financial benefits cliff.
“As I sat through the sessions it became even more apparent how challenges faced by ALICE families have been made worse by the pandemic,” Romeo said. “I was especially intrigued to learn more about the need to support Florida’s veterans, this experience has increased my interest in how we can support our community heroes.”
United Way Suncoast team members will now debrief and mine the information for ways to improve its advocacy and deliverable services to community members.