Wes Moore, CEO of Robin Hood, and panel of prominent leaders discussed the partnerships and innovation necessary to address the national poverty emergency in light of the COVID-19 crisis and beyond
United Way and its partners shed further light on the issues perpetuating the generational cycle of poverty in Greater Cleveland, including systemic racism
CLEVELAND: United Way of Greater Cleveland today hosted its first-ever Virtual Annual Community Meeting, convening local and national leaders to discuss poverty, systemic racism and the ongoing effects of the coronavirus pandemic on Greater Clevelanders.
Russ Mitchell, news anchor and managing editor at 3News - WKYC Studios in Cleveland, hosted the event where Wes Moore, CEO of Robin Hood Foundation, one of the nation’s largest and most effective anti-poverty forces in the nation, delivered the keynote address.
Moore shared his personal experiences fighting the root causes of poverty and how employing common-sense solutions can help change one of the greatest threats to our country.
“Poverty is a choice. But it’s not the choice of the individual or the family that is feeling the oppressive weight of poverty,” said Moore. “It’s our choice. It’s society’s choice. The National Academy of Sciences estimates that poverty costs our nation anywhere between $800 billion and $1.1 trillion a year in lost productivity, criminal justice costs and reparative initiatives. This is not something that has no impact on us; it has an impact on every one of us.”
A panel of leaders joined Moore to discuss the unique problems Greater Cleveland faces, based on their extensive experience working in public, private and nonprofit sectors to tackle the root causes of poverty, including housing instability, and the solutions necessary to identify, alleviate and end the cycle of generational poverty:
- Toby Cosgrove, MD, distinguished chair of United Way of Greater Cleveland’s Impact Institute and executive advisor at the Cleveland Clinic and Google Cloud Healthcare and Life Sciences
- Bill Lacey, president & CEO of GE Lighting, a Savant company
- Marsha A. Mockabee, president & CEO of the Urban League of Greater Cleveland
Cosgrove discussed the progress made by United Way’s Impact Institute since its launch last June, including right to counsel legislation enacted on July 1, 2020 and the key, cross-sector partnerships necessary to advance the law. Cleveland families living at or below the federal poverty line across Cleveland and facing eviction now have the right to free legal counsel through The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland.
Lacey shared how the pandemic and the modern-day Civil Rights movement has brought a sense of urgency to solve the issues facing Clevelanders. Lacey noted that the fuel that will be needed to solve these issues is a spirit of endurance and collaboration, and one step GE Lighting is taking is to help bridge the digital divide by providing computers and Broadband internet access to those who need them.
Mockabee echoed Lacey’s sentiments by stressing that collaboration is in the DNA of the
Urban League of Greater Cleveland. Mockabee also discussed the collaborative work done by the Racism as a Public Health Crisis working group, highlighting the Urban League’s role in eliminating poverty, as well as its focus on the issues of education and making a living wage possible for more Clevelanders.
Augie Napoli, president and CEO of United Way of Greater Cleveland, unveiled a comprehensive Community Assessment report, completed in partnership with the Center for Community Solutions. The report includes significant data and statistics that illustrate the decades-long poverty crisis in Greater Cleveland, which has been further compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic. An executive summary and the full report are available at unitedwaycleveland.org/community.
Napoli reiterated the organization’s continued commitment to advancing its race, diversity, equity and inclusion work.
“Cleveland is at a tipping point. Among the 50 largest cities in the nation, we rank worst in child poverty. Cleveland is second from the bottom in poverty for the working poor, and we have the third worst record for seniors in poverty in the nation. United Way of Greater Cleveland will not accept this as a reality,” said Napoli. “Data shows that systemic racism has magnified the hardships for the Black and brown members of our community.”
“Through collaboration and coordination, we will measure our work against a specific set of goals United Way will set by concentrating on specific areas of work within the three most vulnerable populations in Greater Cleveland: children, the working poor and seniors,” Napoli continued. “This framework for agency investments will activate in 2021, and we will place a strong emphasis in our grant-making on minority-led organizations serving minority populations.”
Napoli added, “Because of your generosity and commitment, our fundraising efforts this year raised close to $30 million. The dollars you give are being used to fund essentials for our neighbors in need and our 2-1-1 HelpLink, a free, confidential and 24/7 resource which connects thousands seeking food, shelter and other needs to survive with real-time help.”
Consider what $1 million can do for children, working poor and senior citizens in Cleveland. In 2021, United Way of Greater Cleveland will dedicate work within the Community Hub for Basic Needs to the following goals:
- To further aid the 51% of Cleveland’s children living in poverty, United Way will provide school readiness programs to 5,000 children for every $1 million donated.
- To further aid the 30% of Cleveland’s working poor, United Way will provide 1,000 adults with programs to help them access and maintain living-wage jobs to build stable families for every $1 million donated.
- To further aid the 22% of Cleveland’s seniors living in poverty, United Way will provide 5,000 seniors with food and other basic needs services for every $1 million donated.
“United Way is on a different path, a more agile path, the right path for all Greater Clevelanders,” said United Way of Greater Cleveland Board Chair Paul Dolan. “We have become a much more nimble and efficient organization that is better prepared to step up and stand up to meet the needs within our community -- now and into the future. Because of the significant changes we have made to the way we operate, our organization was ready to answer the call to help the community in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which created
a crisis upon a crisis within our community.”
Photos and interviews available on request.
Learn more at unitedwaycleveland.org.