(Source: United Way of Lancaster County)
(Source: United Way of Lancaster County)

The United Way of Lancaster County on Monday launched an initiative encouraging financially secure households to donate part or all of their federal stimulus checks to help individuals in need in Lancaster County during the coronavirus pandemic.

The program, Share Our Stimulus, is inspired by Share the Stimulus, a national movement for people to share their checks “with those who need it most.”

Without a centralized program for the Lancaster County community to give to, United Way of Lancaster County President and CEO Kevin Ressler saw an opportunity to serve the community and created one.

“Whether you received a stimulus check or not, you can support your neighbors in need of covering expenses not eligible for some of the targeted support,” said Ressler. “For example, a young mother can receive WIC to help purchase baby formula, but diapers are disqualified. If you need baby formula, you probably also need diapers.”

The United Way will use donations to make one-time grants to individuals and families who need assistance. To determine eligibility, it will use income thresholds in the ALICE framework, which are $21,000 or less for individuals and $48,000 or less for a family of four.  The thresholds reflect a realistic minimum household  “survival budget”: “ALICE” stands for “Asset-Limited, Income-Constrained, Employed.”

(Source: ALICE Project - Pennsylvania)
(Source: ALICE Project - Pennsylvania)

Several Lancaster County organizations have already offered support to the initiative: Lancaster County Community Foundation and Central Pennsylvania Food Bank, which each donated $10,000, along with M&T Bank and High Foundation, which have both donated $5,000.

In addition, Oaktree Outdoor Advertising has pledged to assist in promoting the fund through free billboard support.

To learn more about Share Our Stimulus, its goals and how to pledge your stimulus check, visit uwlanc.org/stimulus. To apply for assistance, visit uwlanc.org/stimulus-apply.

Besides Share the Stimulus, the United Way of Lancaster County was also inspired by local facebook groups such as Lancaster County Take Out and Lancaster PA Adopt a Server.

They were created to support community members who lost their jobs or to support local businesses that needed help during the pandemic shutdowns. As of mid-December, the Adopt a Server group had connected more than 800 “helpers” with more than 200 families in need because of the pandemic.

In November, the latest month available, Lancaster County’s unemployment rate was 4.7%, equal to 13,400 jobless individuals, LNP reported. Many households are struggling with reduced income or the threat of losing their homes due to the pending end of the eviction moratorium.

“In spite of the chaos we see with the pandemic and the political divisions, we still believe in the goodness of the common person,” said Ressler. “We hope that this opportunity for people to share abundance with others needing an act of kindness can be a light pointing a pathway back towards one another. A moment of hope.”

This chart shows estimated budget breakdowns by category as of 2018. (Source: ALICE Project - Pennsylvania)
This chart shows estimated budget breakdowns by category as of 2018. (Source: ALICE Project - Pennsylvania)
Olivia Smucker