United Way seeks funding as calls for rental assistance rise; stimulus bill includes incentives for charitable giving

Stock image of the Sugarloaf or Dixie Rock inset with United Way Dixie's logo, St. George, Utah, date not specified | Photo by St. George News

ST. GEORGE — United Way Dixie and United Way of Central and Southern Utah continue to seek funding for vital programs and nonprofits that support low-income families and individuals who are being heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The collective United Ways of Utah recently announced the COVID-19 Community Response Fund, and while funds are trickling in, some of the state’s most vulnerable counties are not seeing as many donations.

Money donated to the statewide fund is allocated by zip code, United Way Dixie Executive Director Rebekah Pectol said. This means that when people donate they are able to choose a zip code where they want the money to go.

Money donated to Washington County zip codes will be allocated to United Way Dixie and money donated to Iron County zip codes will be allocated for use through United Way of Central and Southern Utah.

While some Northern Utah counties are seeing donations – particularly corporate donations – Pectol said Washington County is experiencing a lack of funding.

“We are definitely struggling to get money in locally,” she said.

The donation deficit comes as the organization is receiving a huge influx of calls seeking rent payment assistance or house payment assistance, Pectol said.

United Way Dixie Logo | Image courtesy of United Way Dixie, St. George News

“About 90% of our calls are for rental assistance,” Pectol said.

In an attempt to help, Gov. Gary Herbert recently ordered a moratorium on evictions until May 15, an order which also allows tenants to defer payments until the same date.

But Pectol said they are worried about what she called the ricochet effect.

“If they can’t pay their rent this month, then they will owe two months next month,” she said, adding that it could just keep compounding the problem.

In Iron County, the story is similar. Bill Hulterstrom, CEO and president of United Way of Central and Southern Utah, said people are really worried about rent.

Unfortunately, he added, the dollar amounts that are being donated to the county through the fund are not that large.

“Most nonprofits are just trying to figure out how to stay in business,” Hulterstrom said, “but it seems like as resources are going down, needs are going up.”

Hulterstrom said that one of the organization’s main focuses, besides getting funding for the community, is to raise awareness about Utah 2-1-1.

The three-digit telephone number, website and app is an easy way for residents throughout Utah to find the resources that are available within their counties, he said.

Be the helper

While donations are not coming in quickly, one local man – who asked to remain anonymous – has pledged to donate his check from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Stimulus Act to the United Way.

A meme on the internet quoting Fred Rogers on helping others. | Screenshot, St. George News

The man told St. George News he was inspired by a meme he had seen floating around Facebook featuring a quote from television’s Fred Rogers, otherwise known as “Mister Rogers.”

The quote is as follows:

When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’

The man said he is old enough to have grown up watching Mr. Rogers, and the quote really struck him.

“When Mr. Rogers tells you something, you listen,”  he said, adding that he wants to be one of those helpers, especially when he thought about his own children and how they must be interpreting current events.

When rumors first started circulating that Americans would be receiving a stimulus check, the man knew it could be a way for him to help others.

Since neither he nor his wife’s livelihood seems to be threatened – and after very thorough planning to take into account emergency medical bills – he decided he would be able to donate his check.

“I’m not rich by any stretch of the imagination, but I don’t need an extra $1,200,” he said. “It would be nice, but others do need it, (and) for some people, it is not going to be enough.”

Bags of rice are stacked and ready for packaging during United Way Dixie’s food packaging event, St. George, Utah, Nov. 1, 2016 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News

The man said he ultimately landed on donating to the United Way because of the myriad nonprofits the organization works with that have a direct impact on people in the community where he lives.

Nonprofits include food pantries, domestic violence shelters, homeless resources, affordable medical and mental healthcare and more.

While he said he hopes that other people are inspired by his decision, he is doing it solely because he wants to be a helper.

“If someone else can and wants to … awesome,” he said.

While not everyone is in a position to donate their stimulus check, Hulterstrom said there are two main ways people can still be helpers.

One, people can look for organizations like the United Way or local nonprofits that are already helping and help them do more, and two, people can look to their neighborhoods and reach out to people who need help or are feeling isolated.

Beyond the altruistic desire to be a helper, Pectol said that there are some practical reasons for donating this year as well. Included in the coronavirus relief bill are a host of tax incentives for individuals and corporations, she said.

One incentive is what is called an above-the-line deduction for taxpayers, meaning that taxpayers can easily claim a charitable giving deduction on their 2020 taxes without having to itemize it.

Additionally the income cap for deductibility on corporate donations was raised from 15% to 25% for 2020.

“This is a great time to make a corporate donation,” Pectol said.

Donations can be made directly online or they can be mailed to United Way Dixie with written instructions for where (what county by zip code) people want their money allocated.

The address for donations is as follows:

United Way Dixie
Attn: COVID-19 Response Fund
948 N. 1300 W. #2
St. George, Utah 84770

“With all the things 2020 is going to be known for, wouldn’t it be nice if this was the year that charitable giving was at an all-time high?” the anonymous donor said.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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