The 88th Texas Legislature is in full swing, and lawmakers have introduced more than 4,500 bills on a staggering number of topics. At United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, we keep an eye out for those bills that will have the greatest impact in our focus areas of education, income and health.
To guide our advocacy efforts over the coming months, we’ve homed in on four legislative goals that would have a significant impact on our North Texas neighbors. These are important topics that have the potential to undergo big policy changes this session. As a United Way supporter, we invite you to learn a bit more about each legislative goal and how it would impact our region.
Millions of Texans are in crisis, struggling to find affordable housing. Workers in Texas’ fast-growing occupations have average wages below 50% area median income (AMI) and are most often affected. When low-income working Texans lose stable housing, many fall into homelessness.
Research shows that it costs far more to rehouse or provide services for someone who is already experiencing homelessness than it does to avoid homelessness by preventing an eviction or providing affordable housing.
What we’re asking lawmakers: Help keep low-income workers in their homes by:
Child abuse costs Texas billions annually in criminal justice, healthcare, social services, education and lost workforce productivity. Preventing abuse upstream not only produces the best outcomes for children, families and communities but also saves the state from other costs. Most allegations confirmed by CPS are neglect and occur between birth to 5 years old—the most important time in a child’s brain development.
Home visiting is a prevention strategy used to support pregnant moms and new families to promote maternal and child health, foster school readiness, and prevent child abuse and neglect.
What we’re asking lawmakers: Fully support Texas Department of Family & Protective Services’ exceptional item #2 to “strengthen services for prevention services by $87.8 million GR/$87.9 million AF and 20 FTEs for the biennium” so more families could be served by these valuable programs.
Over the past two decades, the rate of Texas children who have felt hopeless, struggled with anxiety or depression, or experienced suicidal ideation has been rising. Learning can be challenging for a student experiencing trauma, stress or other difficult life events, and trauma and stress are associated with difficulties with concentration, memory, motivation and decision-making. Alternatively, students who are emotionally and mentally well are more engaged in learning.
What we’re asking lawmakers: Expand access to school-based behavioral and mental health services. This can be done by:
The 211 information and referral helpline is a federally designated dialing code that provides callers with referrals to local health and social service agencies. In Texas, 211 is a public-private partnership between the state and community-based organizations. 211 Texas is unique in that it is one of the only 211s in the country to be managed, operated and funded by a state government.
Unfortunately, challenges within the 211 Texas system pose obstacles for Texans seeking assistance and put strains on community organizations managing the network. Funding for 211 Texas has remained relatively level for nearly 14 years despite an increase in call volume, operational costs and contract expectations from the Texas Health & Human Services Commission.
What we’re asking lawmakers: Bolster the capacities and functionalities of 211 by:
Interested in learning more about these priorities and how they impact North Texans? Check out the following resources:
Lasting change only happens when we all work together. At United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, one of the ways we work to improve access to education, income and health is by uniting our voices through advocacy. When we speak up and speak out, together, we show that improving our community isn’t just a goal—it’s a movement.
To stay up to date on our advocacy efforts and legislative priorities, sign up for our Advocacy Alerts.