Work United Program Adjusts to Meet the Needs in the Upper Valley
When the COVID-19 pandemic began sweeping through the region, Granite United Way’s Work United program immediately responded to meet the needs of those they served.
Work United is an employer collaborative, convened by Granite United Way, dedicated to improving workplace productivity, retention, advancement and financial stability for employees.
The focus of Work United is business solutions ~ job retention and decreased absenteeism. Through shared resources, employers can minimize employment barriers for their low-to-moderate wage workers and maximize the supports employees need to be successful and improve their lives.
“What makes Work United unique is that it is tailored to the needs of each company and each employee,” said Prudence Pease, Director of Work United, “There are some days when I help individuals access childcare and stable transportation so they can continue to work and provide for their families. Other days I could be helping someone file their taxes so they can use their return money to help pay rent.”
Those are the types of needs the Work United team sees in an average week. But times are anything but average now.
When the COVID-19 pandemic began hitting the Upper Valley, the Work United team reached out to each of the 12 Champion companies - Alice Peck Day, Chippers Inc., FUJI Film Dimatix, Inc, Hypertherm, Kendal at Hanover, King Arthur Flour, Simon Pearce, Coop Food Stores, Dartmouth College, Mascoma Bank, Early Care and Education Association and Mt. Ascutney Hospital – and initiated an online version of the program.
“Our ability to immediately offer resources in a new setting is key to stabilizing employee’s lives during a very uncertain time,” said Pease. “Pivoting to a remote resource, we remain a constant presence in their world while keeping a focus on safety throughout our community.”
Each spring, the Work United team are often assisting employees with their taxes and providing free tax preparation through United Way’s online platform MyFreeTaxes.com, coaching individuals through the tax preparation process. This tax season they are able to use this platform and assist clients remotely. Granite United Way’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program has also been a resource for filing taxes and will be available virtually in the coming weeks.
During the month of April, the team also became a resource for those who were experiencing temporary furloughs due to the non-essential business closing mandate. Work United assists not only the workers at a participating company, but their family members as well. “Many people don’t realize that they now qualify for services that they never knew about.” Said Pease, “We can help them navigate what’s available like WIC benefits, local food shelves, unemployment benefits, loan deferent options and more.”
The program also partners with local banks, Mascoma Bank, Ledyard National Bank and Bar Harbor Bank & Trust, to offer emergency loans up to $1,000. Many of these individuals are applying for a loan for the first time in their lives. The Work United team have guided them through the process and has now been working with those same financial professionals to defer those loans in an effort to free up income in the coming months.
“Granite United Way and the Work United program have been helping companies and employees for many years, and they were designed for situations like this,” said Sally Kraft, MD, MPH, VP Population Health, Dartmouth-Hitchcock, Board Member of Granite United Way. “They are addressing the immediate needs of the Upper Valley and will be there as the impact of this pandemic evolves.”
The Work United team knows the needs will continue to change in the coming weeks and months.
“The repercussions of COVID-19 will last for quite some time, and the team is working to ensure that we are a comprehensive resource for those working in the Upper Valley,” said Katie Lynn Kobe Kent, Area Director for Granite United Way.