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OpportUNITY Releases Updated Plan to Reduce Poverty in Central Iowa

June 13, 2018

Des Moines, IA (June 13, 2018) — OpportUNITY has released an updated plan to reduce poverty in Polk, Warren, and Dallas Counties, with action steps in eight focus areas to implement over the next 18 months. The plan, developed with numerous stakeholders through United Way of Central Iowa’s coordination, takes a collective approach to addressing many complex issues that prevent central Iowans from achieving financial stability. 

“The OpportUNITY Plan was an idea that generated out of conversation four years ago, and today, we can list many successes that have resulted from our work on this issue thanks to the hard work of all our partners,” said Seth Johnson, director of OpportUNITY at United Way. “Our work continues to be driven by the belief that poverty exists in central Iowa and that we all must work together to address it, so our community is better for everyone.”

One in three central Iowans live in poverty, defined as 250 percent of the federal poverty level. Above this level, families can begin to pay for basic needs, build assets, and thrive. In 2016, 11,003 more central Iowans were living above 250 percent of poverty than the previous year, according to the latest U.S. Census figures. Yet, 22.9 percent were living in a range where most were working and still not making enough to cover all their basic household needs.

The updated OpportUNITY Plan includes data on the differences in poverty rates among central Iowans by race, family structure, and age. It also includes eight work plans for groups to address specific barriers to financial stability: new Iowans, re-entry, food insecurity, child care cliff effect, housing, adult education and employment, education: pre-K through high school graduation, and transportation. Each of the eight focus areas notes successes to date and goals for the next phase of work.

Among the achievements highlighted:

  • Three new mobile food pantries were launched in Polk and Dallas Counties to increase access to food through the actions of the Food Insecurity work group.
  • Through advocacy efforts with the Child Care Cliff Effect work group, $8.6 million was added to the state budget to support the Child Care Assistance program for working families and increase provider reimbursement rates.
  • The Iowa Legislature repealed a law that automatically revoked driver’s licenses of non-driving drug offenders with the efforts of the Re-entry work group. This removed a huge barrier for citizens returning from prison.

“OpportUNITY is doing extremely important work in our community by looking at every facet of poverty,” said Angela Connolly, Polk County Supervisor. “We all do things every day that help our most vulnerable residents meet their basic needs, but it is critical that we have an organization like United Way of Central Iowa who is looking at the big picture of poverty and engaging every corner of our community in addressing this important issue.”

“John Deere is dedicated to addressing urgent challenges in our home communities, particularly those related to alleviating poverty and empowering youth through meaningful education,” said Stacey Johnson, director of public affairs & citizenship at John Deere Financial. “We are proud to support United Way of Central Iowa’s OpportUNITY Plan which tackles the greatest barriers related to income and youth education. The plan provides us an opportunity to collaborate with community members and work together to increase the percentage of central Iowans who are financially self-sufficient.”  

To view the plan, visit www.opportunitydsm.org.

About OpportUNITY

OpportUNITY unites central Iowa to fight poverty together. The collective impact initiative is raising awareness that poverty and barriers to financial stability prevent central Iowans from thriving in the community and is engaging community members in reducing poverty through advocacy, education, and work groups focused on specific issues. Learn more at www.OpportUNITYDSM.org.

About United Way of Central Iowa

United Way of Central Iowa fights for the health, education, and financial stability of all central Iowans. For over 100 years United Way of Central Iowa has brought together nonprofits, businesses, government, community leaders, volunteers, and more to identify and tackle central Iowa’s toughest challenges. Focusing on issues such as early grade reading, poverty, mental and social health, high school graduation, and career training, United Way of Central Iowa inspires central Iowans to give, advocate, and volunteer to improve lives and empower all in our community. For more information about United Way of Central Iowa, visit www.unitedwaydm.org.

Media Contact

Sarah Welch
(515) 246-6520 (o)
(515) 314-7966 (c)