The best way to support our community is to know its present and critical needs. In 2021, United Way of East Central Iowa (UWECI) conducted a Community Impact Assessment (CIA), which included a thoughtful, deliberate, and inclusive survey approach. UWECI would like to thank the collaborative work of Linn County Community Services & the Continuum of Care, Linn County Public Health, and our community partners in achieving an impactful view of our community’s current needs.
After analyzing data and hosting focus groups, UWECI has a deeper understanding of our community’s needs. This CIA will guide strategic decisions as UWECI works to foster a community where everyone can thrive: one that is sustainable, safe, and equitable.
53.8% gap between white/non-Hispanic home ownership and Black home ownership in Linn County.
Eastern Iowans need an affordable and safe home in order to thrive. Presently, high rent rates, a lack of safe housing, systemic racism, and communication gaps prevent individuals and families from achieving stability.
The August 2020 derecho impacted the already existing limited availability of affordable housing, which has resulted in negative outcomes such as even higher rental costs. Additionally, misinformation about the house buying process has caused some individuals to quickly purchase properties that are available just so they know they have a place to live.
An affordable home is classified as renters who are paying at or less than 30% of their household income. In UWECI’s five-county service area, 30% of renters are housing-cost burdened. Eastern Iowa’s population predominately white, yet we see over-representation in the gathered data below.
“That whole red lining issue - that is still a concern in this community. People should be able to live in any area of the city they want to live in if they can afford to make payments and it should be fair.”
-Eastern Iowa Resident
The early years of a child’s life set the tone for future success in education, well-being, and economic opportunity and stability. However, if a family does not have the resources they need to successfully raise a child, it causes a chain reaction of challenges.
Presently, the childcare shortage has a strong grip on Eastern Iowa. The effects we are seeing as a result of this shortage are overwhelming. When parents don’t have someone to take care of their kids, they cannot work. If they cannot work, they will struggle with paying for food, rent, and utilities. And we know if a child does not get enough to eat or have a safe place to sleep, it is harder to learn in school.
Along with the shortage, the costs of childcare is extremely high. For a family earning median income with an infant in childcare, they would pay 11% of their income before taxes for a licensed center. In comparison, single parents earning the median income for single parent households will spend 41.6% of their income on childcare.
“Raising a child is hard, expensive, and outrageous.”
-Eastern Iowa Resident
While the African American population rate in Linn County is only 6%, the poverty rate is disproportionately at 28%.
Food, shelter, transportation, and access to healthcare are just a few of many critical needs that are part of safety net services. And after a two-year and counting pandemic, these services continue to be in high demand. In July 2021, the Linn County Continuum of Care reported the largest population of individuals experiencing homelessness.
Additionally, access to healthcare—including physical and mental health— is needed more than ever. Public health insurance is not widely accepted by providers in the community, with dental services being a leading issue. Even with insurance, prescriptions and co-pays are a concerning cost. Nearly 70,000 crisis line calls were received in 2021. These burdens are heaviest on people of color, as well as families and individuals with very low incomes. Without these basic needs, Eastern Iowans are unable to achieve stability.