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Economic Prosperity

Thirteen percent of Berkshire County residents live at or below the poverty rate, which translates to 16,038 Berkshire County residents. There are more than 17,000 people age 16-64 who are unemployed in Berkshire County, and only 2,700 of them are collecting unemployment benefits with job placement support. An additional 26,000 people are underemployed. 

That's why Berkshire United Way is focused on strategies that will help families along the path to sustainable incomes. For several years, Berkshire United Way has partnered with many organizations to address the challenges local families are experiencing that negatively impact their financial stability. More recently we have been approached by several of our corporate partners noting an interest to further engage their employees and companies in financial literacy/education and strategies that will help families along the path to sustainable incomes. While connecting families to incoming boosting benefits such as SNAP, Transitional Assistance and Earned Income Tax Credits is important in the short term, our belief is that we need to move from short term program interventions to long term, systems strategies that result in increased income and assets gained from employment. This also supports local businesses' workforce development needs, helping to build prosperity for all. 

Two strategies that support pathways to sustainable income are:

1) Employment Match Maker (Family Sustaining Employment/Pathways) 
Rationale: To match individuals seeking employment with open jobs in Berkshire County. To meet the needs of both employers and unemployed and/or underemployed individuals.

The roles and responsibilities of this position include:

  • Facilitate community conversations with employers / individuals seeking employment
    • Identify employer needs – what skill sets are employees looking for in their workforce? What is missing from existing pool of applicants?
    • Identify employee needs – what is preventing employees from gaining employment?
  • Identify existing resources for both employers/employees – assets and gaps
  • Identify career pathways that provide sustainable incomes
  • Support individuals seeking employment in obtaining job-relevant trainings, certificates, degrees
  • Match people seeking employment with open jobs
  • Connect individuals to other community resources as needed
  • Attend Economic Prosperity Impact Council meetings 

2) Adult Work-Based Experiences (includes College Internships)

Rationale: To provide non-working adults with work-based experiential learning/internship opportunities they need to succeed in the world of work during the summer and/or school year. The intention is to provide local adults with on the job training so they are better positioned to seek employment in Berkshire County. Program staff must work closely with employers to identify industries with open jobs and career pathways that will provide a sustainable income.

Berkshire United Way Request for Proposal Funding
The Request for Proposal for Economic Prosperity is currently closed.

Your gift to Berkshire United Way funds the following programs and coalitions:

Berkshire County Regional Employment Board

  • Employment Match Maker

Central Berkshire Habitat for Humanity

  • Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program

Hilltown CDC

  • Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program

Lever, Inc.

  • Berkshire Business Interns

Other Community Investments in Economic Prosperity:

    Economic Prosperity Impact Council (EPIC)

    Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA)

    FREE Tax Prep
    Put money back in your pocket. 

    Since Berkshire United Way began investing in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, millions in additional dollars have been returned to working families in Berkshire County. VITA provides free income tax preparation assistance to individuals and families with a household income of $55,000 a year or less, in which filers may qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), up to $6,200 and/or qualify for other tax credits. The EITC is the most successful means-tested program in lifting families and children out of poverty. According to the IRS, one in five eligible workers fail to claim the EITC. According to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, research show that the EITC helps families throughout their life – improved infant and material health, better school performance, greater college enrollment, increased work and earnings in the next generation and Social Security retirement benefits.

    Emergency Food & Shelter Program (EFSP)

    Berkshire United Way administers the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Emergency Food and Shelter Program (EFSP) in Berkshire County, which was created to help people with economic emergencies. The funding is made by a national board that is chaired by FEMA with local representatives from the Salvation Army, American Red Cross, The Jewish Federations of North America, Catholic Charities USA, the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA, and United Way of America.

    The board solicits proposals from qualifying organizations and then determines how funds designated by FEMA are to be distributed.  Funds pass directly from FEMA's EFSP program to the local agencies that are awarded funding.

    Local organizations chosen to receive funds must be private voluntary non-profits (with voluntary board) or units of government; have an accounting system; practice non-discrimination; have demonstrated the capability to deliver emergency food and/or shelter programs.

    The EFSP RFP process is currently closed.

    Economic Prosperity Impact Council

    The Economic Prosperity Impact Council is a Berkshire United Way, countywide, community led coalition that aims to build pathways to sustainable incomes. BUW engaged the Tamarack Institute in hosting the Let’s Get To Work: Building a Pathway to Sustainable Incomes Collective Impact workshop in June 2017 with cross sector representation from businesses, education, non-profit organizations, and people with lived experience. Arising out of the Tamarack Institute was a Core Team that will work together to:

    • Develop and implement strategies to address population level results
    • Create strategic work groups as needed
    • Develop collaborations and partnerships
    • Identify additional resources
    • Assist in developing investment recommendations for final approval by Berkshire United Way Board of Directors
    • Develop and monitor performance measures with reports from Community Partners
      • Employment Match Maker (Family Sustaining Employment/Pathways)
      • Adult Work-Based Experiences