UTST Monthly Newsletter: Issue #1


A message from the Project Director:

Two years ago, United Today, Stronger Tomorrow, was founded on the belief that the best way to address a crisis is to go directly into communities and talk to people who are impacted, discover what they need, and then bring them together across the political spectrum to implement solutions. It’s in our name: when we’re united today, we’re stronger tomorrow.

In late November 2020, we learned that the story being pushed by both right and left wing media didn’t accurately reflect what was happening in communities like yours. When faced with a crisis, people DO work together to keep their friends, families, and neighbors safe. Republican Sheriffs were working with Democratic Social Workers to pass mask ordinances that both protected people and kept local economies open. Dairy farm owners were working with immigrant labor activists to make sure everyone got a Covid vaccination. Yes, there are extremists who want to burn everything down, but our successes across South Dakota, Iowa, Utah, Colorado, and Montana show that they are in the minority. In fact, in two years, we’ve shown they can be neutralized – even defeated – when confronted with a united community engaged in a nonpartisan way around local priorities.

Today, we are focused on making sure the billions of dollars in federal funding coming to states like yours is invested in what communities want and need. This historic funding can not only improve your community, it can help prepare us for the future – like making sure we all have clean air and water and a strong transportation infrastructure so we can be competitive in the global market.

We are excited to launch this newsletter so we can keep you up-to-date on all that’s happening with UTST. This is an extraordinary moment, the benefits of which can – and will – improve the lives of everyone in your community. We must not let it pass us by.

-Paul Getsos, Project Director


Iowa: $100 Million to expand high speed internet! 📡

Our Iowa project took off in July 2021 when residents of Woodbury County ran a campaign against the misappropriation of $15.6 million dollars in Covid recovery funding for a new prison without public input. We won a meeting with the US Treasury, which led them to rule that new construction of prisons, jails, juvenile centers, and congregate facilities is an ineligible use of Covid recovery funding.

In Pottawattamie County, nearly $2 million in Covid recovery funding was used by the Board of Supervisors to purchase a ski hill. After three public town halls and more than 400 surveys of county residents, we won public input at board meetings and an agreement to consider UTST data about community priorities when spending the second half of the total $18 million funding.

Recently, after our members sent more than 70 letters to the Governor and the Chief Information Officer, the state executives finally submitted their notice of intent to deliver more than $100 million to expand high speed internet to EVERY household in Iowa!


Moving forward, UTST will focus on making sure labor unions are at the table as we work to use new federal infrastructure funding to rebuild Iowa while maintaining standards for local hire, prevailing wage, and Buy American clauses. Email Dave@unitedtoday.org to get involved!

Dave Bushaw, IA Regional Organizer


South Dakota: $200 million for workforce housing, emergency medical services, and more! 🏥

The South Dakota project started back in October 2020 with the Sioux Falls Mask Mandate Campaign – and as COVID changed, so did the UTST-SD work. Since then, we successfully ran campaigns to make the COVID vaccine more available across the state, met with both federal and state legislators about COVID recovery needs, and surveyed almost 800 South Dakotans about how to use the state’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds.

These campaigns brought thousands of South Dakotans to the UTST community, and together, we influenced the allocation of more than $200 million for workforce housing, emergency medical services, behavioral health services, and more!

Now, we’re making sure your county’s ARPA funds are effectively invested in your communities. For instance, we have a great community team in Yankton County working to ensure that their funds are spent to address their priorities. If you want to get involved in our South Dakota work, email rueben@unitedtoday.org 

-Rueben Engelhart, SD Regional Organizer 


Colorado: $4 million for affordable housing 🏡

We’ve been busy in Colorado, securing $4 million for affordable housing and building a language justice cooperative in La Plata County. We’ve also been making sure that thousands of rural Coloradans get their cash back for filing taxes, we’re urging Senator Hickenlooper to prioritize the Child Tax Credit, and we WON $15 million for the Office of Just Transition! We’re getting going with projects focused on new infrastructure money coming to the state RIGHT NOW. Tell me what your community needs and let’s get to work on it together!

-Olivia T, CO Regional Organizer, olivia@unitedtoday.org  


Utah: $300 million for the UTST Agenda 💰

In April 2021, we launched our work by collecting surveys from 1000 Utahns about how the nearly $3 billion in American Rescue Plan funds should be spent in our state.  

From these surveys we created the UT Stronger Tomorrow Agenda – a list of specific investments Utah should make with the funds in the areas of housing, health care, education, jobs, family support, and infrastructure. 

After Utahns like you sent 250 personal emails to Governor Cox, we helped make sure that nearly $300 million went to the priorities that YOU identified for YOUR community.

Utah leaders organized 250 personal emails to Governor Cox and legislators in support of these priorities, and approximately $300 million went to projects we identified as priorities. 

If you want to get involved in our efforts to continue making sure relief funds meet the needs of working Utah families, please contact me at ann@unitedtoday.org

-Ann Dent, UT Regional Organizer


Montana: Ready to launch 🚀

For the past few months we’ve been getting ready to launch our work in Montana. So far, we have collected more than 200 surveys from residents on how they want ARP funds spent! We’re hiring a full time organizer soon and can’t wait to share more as we get to work! 


Peer-to-Peer Texting 📲 

Is there a real person behind the texts I get from UTST? Should I respond to them with questions or thoughts on the campaigns? The answer is YES and YES! When you receive a text from UTST, it’s called a peer-to-peer text, because there is a real person who sent it and who is eager to answer all of your questions about our work!

These texts are great for keeping you updated, having one-on-one conversations, sharing calls to action for campaigns, and recruiting more folks to the UTST work! Do you want to learn more about peer-to-peer texting? Contact me! 

-Micayla Ter Wee, National Organizer, Micayla@unitedtoday.org

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Digital Corner 💻 

To make big changes, we need to reach as many people as possible. That’s why our digital program is focused on running ads on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok. We create action pages that let you contact your local representatives in a click and build surveys that help local governments decide where billions will be spent in their state! Questions? Thoughts? Contact me!

-Nemo Curiel, Digital Director, Nemo@unitedtoday.org


Working with the White House 🏛

Last month our members met with White House officials who heard our stories and recommendations from folks in South Dakota, Iowa, Utah, Colorado and Montana. They committed to continuing the conversation with us about not just fixing ARP funding but making sure infrastructure funding is done right.

We then attended a White House summit on ARP funds with Vice President Kamala Harris to continue these conversations and ensure they are following through with their promises.

Onward,

Paul Getsos
www.unitedtoday.org

    

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