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United Way of C.O. provides $100K to help fund school-aged child care initiative

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- As part of its COVID-19 Recovery & Resilience efforts, United Way of Central Oregon is directing $100,000 to help alleviate the pressure felt by many families because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

And, that pressure is immense: 43% of the 8,000 K-5th grade children enrolled in Bend-La Pine School District qualify for free/reduced lunch and more than 900 identify as Black, Indigenous or People of Color (primarily Latinx).

These United Way funds will provide kids with a safe and supported place to learn so that parents can continue working in their jobs – jobs that help local families meet critical needs, such as housing, food, health care, utilities, medications, transportation, and cell phones.

Many of these families face steep barriers to accessing childcare, especially during the pandemic: parents whose jobs do not permit work from home or flexible hours; limited extended family resources as families protect older generations from COVID-19 exposure; and limited access to internet for children to participate in at-home online learning.

This $100,000 from United Way will support children with high needs as defined by family income, housing, foster care status, and more by providing these students with free or steeply-reduced full-day childcare provided through Better Together’s expanded School-Aged Childcare Initiative.

The Initiative provides full-day childcare needs for 750 children ranging from 5 – 10 years of age through trusted community partners. Childcare needs will be met at 14 Bend elementary schools through Bend Park & Recreation District’s Operation Recreation “Team Up” program, as well as Boys & Girls Clubs of Bend’s new Club+ program, launched to fill the gaps during COVID-19 school closures.

United Way funds will help Better Together offer more childcare to more children for less money, offer students extra learning assistance, provide access to technology that kids might not otherwise have access to for distance learning, and provide culturally-responsive resources in understanding and meeting families’ needs.

Why Better Together?

Better Together is a regional, cross-sector partnership working collectively to improve educational outcomes for children and youth from cradle to career. The organization is deeply engaged in high-needs and vulnerable populations across Central Oregon.

Since the COVID-19 crisis began, Better Together leveraged its deep roots in local communities to quickly and deeply understand the needs, with a focus on children who are particularly vulnerable and affected by: health scares and economic impacts, family members sick or out of work, multigenerational housing arrangements, school closures and limited childcare resources.

Better Together serves alongside United Way of Central Oregon on the Steering Committee of the TRACEs movement, building resilience in Central Oregon.

About United Way of Central Oregon

United Way of Central Oregon is addressing critical needs of our community’s most vulnerable through grant funds that support local nonprofits as they adapt to new challenges resulting from COVID-19 in delivering essential services. Thus far, United Way has awarded $295,000 to 44 regional nonprofit programs as part of its COVID-19 Emergency Response, Recovery & Resilience efforts.

And this is just the beginning. United Way is pleased to announce that it will be accepting applications from September 8th – 23rd from nonprofit organizations providing essential services to vulnerable populations in the City of Bend for grant funding supported by funds that came from the City of Bend’s allocation of Oregon State-directed CARES Act. Learn more and apply at: https://www.unitedwaycentraloregon.org/city-of-bend-cares-act-funding/.

United Way is helping individuals and families in our community who are most impacted by this crisis to recover and to build resilience. Knowing that community crises often disproportionately impact Black, Indigenous, People of Color, and other marginalized groups, United Way funding prioritizes efforts that attend to racial and other inequities.

The nonprofit recently changed its name from United Way of Deschutes County to United Way of Central Oregon. Learn more and give at unitedwaycentraloregon.org.

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