Public Policy and Advocacy

Public Policy Vision: To make Greater Cleveland the best place to live, work, gain an education and raise a family.

For decades, Cleveland has topped national charts in the number of working adults, children, and older adults living in poverty. To address the long-term systemic issues that have plagued our community, United Way of Greater Cleveland engages in public policy and legislative, regulatory, and budgetary advocacy to advance solutions that will transform Greater Cleveland into the best place in Ohio and the nation to live, work, gain an education, and raise a family. To achieve this goal, Greater Cleveland residents need to obtain economic stability by increasing access to living wage jobs, high-quality education, excellent healthcare, and safe and affordable housing.

United Way of Greater Cleveland will engage and partner with local, county, state, and federal government agencies and elected officials, in addition to local and statewide private sector, non-profit, and health and human service organizations.

Woman and child

Ensure Ohioans have Comprehensive Access to 211.

211 is a free, 24/7/365 live service that connects individuals with vital services in their community, including employment, food, housing and utility assistance, and health care. In addition, United Way 211 serves as the database for Cuyahoga County’s OhioRISE Care Management Entity, which helps families access critical resources.

United Way of Greater Cleveland has partnered with all 211 providers in Ohio and collectively calls on state, county, and local governments to ensure Ohioans have comprehensive access to 211 infrastructure, technology, and operating costs. Investments will allow 211s to have a greater role in supporting state and local governments’ public health, community information, emergency preparedness, and disaster response goals.

Guarantee Equitable Access to Safe and Affordable Housing.

Access to safe, affordable, and stable housing is an essential foundation for all individuals. However, not all residents in Greater Cleveland have access to safe, affordable, and healthy housing. Most of the housing stock throughout Greater Cleveland was built before 1978, which has a high likelihood of containing a lead paint hazard, and can have long-term effects on health, educational, and employment outcomes for exposed individuals. In addition, Black youth are disproportionately poisoned by lead as young children, one example of the many racial disparities that continues to persist in Greater Cleveland.

We call on state and local governments to develop legislation and regulations that create, maintain, and sustain safe, affordable, and healthy housing. This includes: enhancing protections for low-income renters; mandating lead compliance; ensuring utilities are affordable; creating legislation and funding that helps homeowners and renters access affordable home repairs and receive credit for making repairs; and increasing housing stock of small and mid-size homes for older adults.

Sustaining and creating safe, healthy, and affordable housing has a profound impact on individuals, families, local communities, and the state.

 Neighborhoods with sustainable and affordable housing bring in more opportunities for investments, businesses, and jobs, which increases revenue for local and state governments. Children who live in healthy homes and neighborhoods before and after birth have greater health and educational outcomes and lower overall health expenditures. Adults and families who have greater economic opportunities in their neighborhoods have better job prospects, which increases their ability to purchase homes and pass down intergenerational wealth.

Remove Barriers to Employment and Create Programs that Enable Individuals to Transition from Receiving Public Benefits to Obtaining a Living Wage.

As the state and local governments invest and build partnerships with the private sector to increase Ohio’s regional and global competitiveness in vital markets, it is imperative that the local workforce is ready to participate in these high demand, living-wage jobs. This includes investments in enhancing the local workforce, in addition to removing barriers that prevent individuals from obtaining jobs or increasing their wages, including removing the “cliff effects” that happen when an individual’s income increases and makes them no longer eligible for benefits, but the increase in wages does not cover the lost benefits, leaving them and their children with less to live on.

We call on state and local governments to develop legislation, regulations, and allocate funding to programs that support community members in gaining sustainable jobs, removing barriers to employment, and modernizing safety net programs. 

This includes creating benefits bridge programs that allow individuals to transition from receiving public benefits to obtaining a living wage job that will help them gain economic independence.

Public Policy and Advocacy Committee

Sonali Wilson, Esq.
Chair, Cleveland State University

Terry Szmagala, Jr.
Co-Chair, Eaton Corporation

India Birdsong
Greater Cleveland Regional
Transit Authority

Mike Caputo

Matt Carroll
Cuyahoga County

John Corlett
Center for Community Solutions

Paul Dolan
Cleveland Guardians

Renee Harvey
Cleveland Browns

Alana Jochum
Equality Ohio

Ira Kaplan
Benesch, Friedlander, Coplan & Aronoff LLP

Frances Mills
City of Cleveland,
Department of Public Health

Shari Obrenski
Cleveland Teachers Union

David Razum
Cuyahoga County

Jasmin Santana
Cleveland City Council

Sharon Sobol Jordan
United Way of Greater Cleveland

Kristin Warzocha
Greater Cleveland Foodbank

Vanessa Whiting
AES Management Corp.

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