United Way of San Diego County Receives Nearly $450,000 from HHS Office of Minority Health to Increase Economic Stability for Low-Income Working Families


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Scatena Daniels


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Funding to help launch three-year multi-sector partnership to measure how strengthening families’ financial safety net reduces risk of childhood trauma

SAN DIEGO (Dec. 8, 2020) — United Way of San Diego County (UWSD), a nonprofit working in alignment with partners to address inequities in our region and help underserved communities recently received a grant of nearly $450,000 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Minority Health (OMH). UWSD was one of just 23 nonprofits across the nation that received this funding. The organization will use these resources from OMH to form a three-year partnership with community organizations in San Diego County, aiming to measure for the first time how giving families more economic resources and support prevents the incidence of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).

The $449,898 grant, funded entirely by OMH, will support UWSD’s “Building Resilience: Evaluating the Impact of Economic Supports on ACEs Risk” project, which focuses on preventing ACEs by bolstering emotional intelligence and economic stability in parents. These factors, according to the CDC, are most likely to reduce abuse, exposure to violence, family dysfunction, substance abuse and poverty—some of the most prevalent ACEs that can predispose children to serious physical and mental health complications later in life.

“We’re thrilled to have been awarded this significant grant from the Office of Minority Health to build this project from the ground up for our community,” says Nancy L. Sasaki, president and CEO, United Way of San Diego County. “Adverse childhood experiences are often linked to chronic health problems for children in adulthood, such as mental illness and addiction, which can hinder them from achieving their full potential. However, we believe these traumatic experiences can be prevented if we step up to provide more economic security as well as financial education opportunities for the low-income, working families in our community.

UWSD has convened a group of five outstanding partners to execute the Building Resilience project and achieve its goals. UWSD’s Building Resilience partners bring expertise in the area of tax preparation assistance, financial education and family support services. They include:

How Building Resilience Will Work

Building Resilience will focus on concrete solutions such as helping families access the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The project will measure, from September 30, 2020 to September 30, 2023, how economic stability reduces childhood trauma for children growing up in low-income working families, particularly those in communities of color disproportionately at risk for ACEs. UWSD hopes that their findings over the next three years will help them pioneer policy changes that help even more families in the region.

As the leader of the San Diego EITC Coalition, which offers free tax preparation to local, low-to-moderate income families and individuals, UWSD has the trust, experience and infrastructure to lead this project. UWSD and Building Resilience partners will reach out to target populations of individuals experiencing homelessness or underemployed, immigrants, refugees and limited English proficient small business owners operating within County-identified Opportunity Zones. UWSD hopes to reach more than 29,000 individuals with EITC outreach and financial education annually throughout the three years of funding, and enroll a total of 400-600 people into the project at different levels of involvement and guidance.

The Building Resilience project kicks off at a precarious time for many families in the region. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, an estimated 27 percent of San Diego children lived in families where the parents did not have secure employment. As the pandemic drags on into 2021, San Diego County’s unemployment rate remains more than double what it was this time last year. Given this economic climate, a significantly higher number of children will be living in financially unstable families for the foreseeable future, and thereby at higher risk of ACEs—an outcome that UWSD and its partners hope to prevent.

“For the past 100 years, our team has been committed to aligning partners, leveraging resources and transforming the lives of those in need,” says Sasaki. “We look forward to putting these funds from OMH into action for those most at risk of adverse childhood experiences.”


For 100 years, United Way of San Diego County has aligned with partners to address inequities in the region and help underserved communities. United Way’s specialty lies in identifying sustainable, long-term goals and achieving them through leveraging data and partners’ expertise to better understand root causes and putting impactful solutions into action.

United Way’s work, in partnership with others, uses shared goals, innovation and proven practices to transform the lives of children, young adults and families in the San Diego region. United Way focuses on educational milestones, such as kindergarten readiness, third-grade literacy, high school preparation, and college and career pathways. Learn more and get involved by visiting www.uwsd.org, Facebook, Twitter, or by calling (858) 492-2000.