We crowded into the offices of state legislators in Tallahassee. We met one-on-one with county commissioners across our region. We repeatedly pull together the area’s most influential leaders to illuminate critical issues.
United Way Suncoast frequently amplifies its advocacy to eliminate barriers and light a path towards greater equity. In February, CEO Jessica Muroff led a United Way Suncoast contingent into the capital city. Joined by United Way representatives from around the state, the group stepped before representatives and highlighted critical proposals involving affordable housing, Kid Care insurance and our Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. Jessica returned with the Tampa Bay Partnership to make more visits.
As we approach Independence Day, United Way Suncoast celebrates the fact that democracy lives in our advocacy efforts.
A Successful Session
In the final assessment, United Way Suncoast, United Way of Florida and its public policy teams can point to multiple successes emanating from the 2023 legislative session. The UWOF Consensus Legislative Agenda delivered on these proposals:
- The Affordable Housing (HB 627) bill filed by State Rep. Demi Busatta Cabrera. R-Miami , and the SB 102 bill filed by State Senator Alexis Calatayud resulted in the passing of what was labeled the Live Local Act. The new legislation is, a $711 million effort to increase housing across the state,
- Kid Care expansion was a multi-year effort championed by Representative Robin Bartleman, D-Weston. It successfully garnered bipartisan support in the Legislature and the Governor signed the bill into law in June. It expands subsidized insurance coverage for families of four with incomes up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $90,000 annually.
- A $1.2 million Tax Prep Allocation for VITA was fully appropriated in the budget and signed by Governor Ron DeSantis. The appropriation will distribute dollars to VITA programs across the state based on how many returns each local United Way prepared in 2023. United Way Suncoast can already point to having prepared returns for 9,942 households, an increase of 11 percent from 2022.
Together, We Can Make A Difference
The passage of legislation involves a dedicated effort from multiple parties. It also requires a willingness for state representatives to listen and act. But United Way of Florida’s Capital Days did play a role, and every single legislature involved in the two-day event in February encouraged attendees to keep advocating.
The event drew 79 registrants, a 7 percent increase from 2022. Key state policy makers, including Department of Business and Professional Regulation Secretary Melanie Griffin, made presentations to the group. United Way epresentatives also conducted office visits with state legislators such as State Sen. Jay Collins, R-Tampa, and State Rep. James Buchanan, R-Sarasota. A reception attended drew additional policy makers and included approximately 20 legislators or their representatives.
United Way of Florida, working with RSA, held three advocacy and educational webinars in advance of Capital Days to prepare our group.
Advocacy Is What We Do
United Way Suncoast will continue to actively engage in public policy advocacy to develop partnerships. These collaboartions will include local, state, and federal governments – along with the private and nonprofit sectors. We firmly believe we’re one of the best organizations to lead this work. We will combine efforts with our public policy committee, RSA consulting, United Way of Florida and our 27 local United Way.