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 An in-depth look at United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey’s support to drive region-wide COVID-19 recovery.  

Opportunity. It looked a lot different in February than it does now. But for a city like Philadelphia - the poorest big city in the U.S. - where more than one fifth of residents live in poverty, while another fifth teeter on the cusp - our untenable poverty trends have undeniably been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. With stay-at-home orders that shuttered business and schools and effectively shut down our economy, COVID’s effect on our region is clear: 

  • The pandemic is expected to cause the first increase in global poverty since 1998 - and for a city like Philadelphia, where 40% of residents already live in or on the brink of poverty, that translates into more families struggling to make ends meet, put food on the table or save for the future.
  • Between March and April, the unemployment rate in Philadelphia skyrocketed from 5% to 14.5% with many of the newly unemployed lost jobs in low-wage fields like retail, hospitality, childcare and more.


With so many of our neighbors already living in or on the edge of poverty and now further affected by the economic fallout of COVID-19, our post-pandemic recovery strategy must prioritize resources and opportunities for people most affected. That’s why we’re laser-focused on recovery efforts and investing in programs that reduce poverty in Early Learning, Workforce Development & Financial Empowerment. 

In our nearly 100 years of serving the community, we’ve built our mission on finding solutions to tackle the barriers communities face during challenging times. A gift to the Impact Fund allows our team to invest in non-profit organizations and programs that break the cycle of poverty that traps families for generations. Thanks to the confidence and support of tens of thousands of donors, we have a foundation of high-impact interventions in place that can quickly scale up to move our region forward--even stronger than before.

United Way’s team and partners stand ready to help. Here are just a few examples: 

  • The PHL Covid-19 Fund: In partnership with the City of Philadelphia and The Philadelphia Fund, United Way helped lead the way in raising $17.5 million to aid in immediate community relief and ensure that the doors to nonprofits serving the communities most affected stayed open. 
  • 211 Helpline: Following any disaster, as resources come online to help families recover, accurate and accessible information about where to get help is essential. 211 in Southeastern Pennsylvania and in Southern New Jersey is there to help. Since COVID struck our community, calls for support have increased by 200%. 
  • Early Learning:  Advocating for high-quality childcare and early learning is nothing new for our United Way but now, during this unprecedented time of the pandemic, we’re continuing our efforts by investing in access to safe, affordable, and high quality childcare that is essential to working families and supports the rebound of our economy. 
  • Benefits Enrollment: With layoffs and furloughs growing, it’s no surprise that people are facing financial hardship unlike any they’ve faced before. For more than ten years, United Way has invested in nonprofit organizations that provide benefits enrollment so that in times of need, our neighbors can easily access and enroll in the benefits that will sustain them through these crises. To meet growing demand in the immediate aftermath of COVID, we will increase investments in this work. 
  • Workforce Training: From IT technicians to certified nursing assistants, our partners are training people for jobs that fuel our economy and provide family-sustaining wages. We are working closely with our partners to effectively respond to an economy changed by the pandemic.
  • Nonprofit Capacity Building: Nonprofit organizations are the gateway to community recovery. Many have been in overdrive since COVID-19 hit our region; others have been nearly dormant, unable to reach their clients. United Way capacity building is deploying the technical assistance and skilled volunteers that our nonprofit community desperately needs to navigate these complex times.

Once the pandemic passes and the human and economic aftermath is assessed, what will our legacy be? Together, united, we can fuel a movement that propels our region toward recovery and a stronger future. These interventions lay the foundation. The movement begins now - are you in? Learn more at

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