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May 26, 2015 / Ciara Myers, Editor

Virginia leads the country in percentage of uninsured

Nationwide, the number of uninsured individuals is decreasing. Virginia, however, continues to trail behind as the state is home to the largest percentage of uninsured people compared with the rest of the U.S. (WAMU, 5/26)

That’s a trend not likely to change anytime soon. The main reason for that is how the Medicaid system works in Virginia, creating the region’s strictest limits on who can qualify for health insurance for people with low income and disabilities.

“We have women who are not covered in Virginia who would be covered in Maryland or in D.C.,” says Anne Rorem at the University of Virginia Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service. “In Virginia, we see that pregnant women are covered under Medicaid up to 143 percent of the poverty level, which means that they are living above poverty. But not all that much above poverty.”

Maryland has about 12 percent of its population uninsured. In D.C., it’s 8 percent. But across the Potomac in Virginia, 14 percent of the population has no health insurance. One explanation for that is that the General Assembly has blocked efforts to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

COMMUNITY | Leadership Montgomery seeks a president and CEO to lead the organization and build upon their 26-year history of leadership development in Montgomery County, MD. To learn more about the position and Leadership Montgomery, click here.

PHILANTHROPY | The Catalogue for Philanthropy has released the list of nonprofit organizations in the region that will make up their Catalogue Class of 2015-16. Check out the full list here.

ENVIRONMENT | The District was named number three in a ranking of the most energy-efficient cities, just behind Boston and New York. The study, by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, recommends that the city could improve by developing “a specific energy target for drinking water and wastewater treatment services.” (WBJ, 5/22)

Related: A new initiative has been launched in Prince George’s County, under the banner of the Community Wealth Building Initiative (CWBI), known as the Community CleanWater Management Group, Inc. The  business is geared toward clean water services. Read more about the first CWBI business in the region here. (Daily, 2/18)

– A lack of affordable housing in the region isn’t just a tough reality for a number of families. It also has become a major hindrance for local musicians. (WAMU, 5/22)

– In D.C., Homeless Filmmakers Tell Stories from the Street (City Lab, 5/21)

FOOD | Opinion: In order to better serve clients and maximize resources, some food pantries are moving toward digitizing services, which may prove to be beneficial for everyone involved. (NYT, 5/22)

How about a Memorial Day Quiz?

– Ciara

May 22, 2015 / Ciara Myers, Editor

Friday roundup – May 18 through May 22, 2015

The WRAG office will be closed on Monday, May 25, in observance of Memorial Day. Enjoy the long weekend! 

– Check out some of the key issues that were raised during WRAG’s recent Loudoun County Philanthropy Conference. (Loudoun Times, 5/15)

– Polly Donaldson, the new head of the Department of Housing and Community Development, discussed how the agency plans to extend its focus on affordable housing into efforts to end homelessness. (WCP, 5/15)

– Montgomery County planners released a draft of their Bethesda Downtown Plan, including recommendations for the area over the next 20 years.  Plans involve new park space and the preservation of affordable housing. (Bethesda Magazine, 5/15)

– Arabella Advisors shared some effective approaches that health funders can take to fulfill unmet needs in the constantly evolving healthcare system. (Arabella Advisors, 5/18)

– For the second year in a row, the Washington region was number one in a list of the fittest metropolitan areas. (NPR, 5/19)

Whether you live in the District or just occasionally pass through the area, it’s always nice to know how to get around. Take this quiz to see how well you can navigate D.C. streets. I’m proud of my 5/10!

– Ciara

May 21, 2015 / Ciara Myers, Editor

Erratic work schedules often impact women most

A new study from the Center for Popular Democracy finds that women tend to be hit the hardest by the unstable hours and wages that are often a part of hourly work (City Lab, 5/20):

They are more likely to work jobs that pay on an hourly basis, according to the report, at 61 percent compared to 56 percent of men. In particular, women of color dominate the hourly workforce: They are twice as likely to work in an hourly job as in a salaried one, while white women are 1.4 times more likely.

Working part-time (less than 34 hours per week) further exacerbates the domino effects of irregular scheduling. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, in 2010, 26.6 percent of women worked part time, compared to just 13.4 percent of men. About half of all women who work hourly part-time jobs do so because of childcare issues, family obligations, or their own educational commitments.


Such work/life volatility amounts to tremendous stress, which in turn can impact a worker’s ability to sleep, and her overall health—plus, that of her children.

Opinion: The ‘low-wage recovery’ is a myth (WaPo, 5/20)

EVENTS | The England Family Foundation is hosting a donor briefing on the 11th Street Bridge Park on May 28th at the Anacostia Arts Center from 9:30 AM – 11:15 AM, followed by a walking tour of the site. This briefing is for donors only, but is not exclusively for WRAG members. Please contact Julia Baer-Cooper for details and to RSVP.

YOUTH/SOCIAL JUSTICE | The Public Welfare Foundation shares some takeaways from a recent sit-down with two experts who are working to tackle disparities in youth and adult incarceration in innovative ways. (Public Welfare Foundation, 5/19)

DISTRICT | Poll: D.C. residents favor mayor’s sales tax increase (WaPo, 5/21)

TRANSIT | Cities Need Great Transit All Day, Not Just For Rush-Hour (City Lab, 5/20)

In this battle of man vs. machine, a reporter faces off against an automated program to craft a news story. Who do you think won?

– Ciara

May 20, 2015 / Ciara Myers, Editor

D.C., Maryland come out strong in study of the best states for women

The Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) recently released the last of a series of reports exploring the state of women across the United States. D.C. and Maryland emerged among the top places for women in a few different areas (WaPo, 5/20):

The best state for women to rise above poverty:
Women fighting to move out of poverty are better off in Maryland than their peers in any other state, according to IWPR’s analysis of poverty and economic opportunity. The report looked at the share of women who: live above the poverty line; own a business; have health insurance; and earned a bachelor’s degree.

The best state for employment and earnings:
The first report in the series examined how women fared in each state’s labor force, relying on a series of data to arrive at its conclusion: that women in Maryland are best off when it comes to employment and earnings.

Maryland and Massachusetts each earned a B+ on IWPR’s scorecard (The District of Columbia earned an A), though women are far from equal in either state. In Maryland, women earn 87.4 cents for every dollar earned by men, who are also 1.9 times more likely to work in high-paying Science, Technology, Engineering or Math (STEM) jobs.

Also worth noting, only 10 states and D.C. improved their scores for women’s health and well-being from 2004-2015.

Black women’s lives matter, too, say the women behind the iconic hashtag (WaPo, 5/19)

AFFORDABLE HOUSING | According to a new report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition, with support from J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., one needs to make $28.04 per hour to be able to afford rent on a two-bedroom apartment in the District. In D.C., the Fair Market Rent for a two-bedroom unit is currently at $1,458, excluding utilities. (DCist, 5/19)

– The Center for Effective Philanthropy has released their new report entitled. “Investing and Social Impact: Practices of Private Foundations.” The report analyzes responses from CEOs of large private foundations on their current state of operations. (CECP, 5/20)

– Taking a page out of the nonprofit playbook, corporations like Unilever, Starbucks and others have all recently implemented social impact strategies. Not to be confused with cause marking or corporate philanthropy, these strategies are concrete and measurable plans that have quantifiable business outcomes and definitive societal impacts. (Entrepreneur, 3/10)

RELATED: On June 3, WRAG’s Corporate Philanthropy Affinity Group is hosting “Shared Value: Exploring Opportunities to Simultaneously Increase Your Company’s Profitability and Social Impact.” Join fellow CSR professionals to learn how to put societal issues at the core of your company’s business strategy and operations.

– The Community Foundation for Northern Virginia’s giving circle of young professionals, the Future Fund, recently raised $40,000 to support 2016 grantmaking in Northern Virginia at their annual Future Fund Awards Gala. Two grant-winning organizations – Access Hope and Youth for Tomorrow – received grants of $20,000 to support individuals and families with limited access to mental health care. Find out more here.

ENVIRONMENT | A century of buried toxins in the Anacostia are coming to the surface (WaPo, 5/19)

HEALTH/MARYLAND | A new report shows that the state of Maryland had a significant increase in the number of fatal drug overdoses in 2014. Anne Arundel, Montgomery, and Prince George’s counties were among the areas with the highest rates of deaths caused by an overdose. (WaPo, 5/19)

EDUCATION | Poverty, family stress are thwarting student success, top teachers say (WaPo, 5/19)

Do you call it the Metro, WMATA, or the subway? Take this poll to see how other people in the region refer to some of the things we come across everyday.

– Ciara 

May 19, 2015 / Ciara Myers, Editor

Varied quality for D.C. preschool programs

A new report released by the Office of the State Superintendent for Education finds a great deal of variation in the quality of preschool programs across the District. Looking at data from the 2013-2014 school year, preschool programs in the city did well overall in terms of promoting emotional and social development, but not so well at providing instructional support. (WaPo, 5/18)

On a scale of 1 to 7, [researchers] have found that “threshold” scores of five or more in emotional support and classroom organization, and scores of three or more in instructional support, are associated with better outcomes for children.

Average scores across D.C. surpassed the threshold for emotional support (which includes positive climate, teacher’s sensitivity and regard for students’ perspectives) and classroom organization (which includes behavior management and productivity.)

But scores fell below the threshold for instructional support, with an average score of 2.5. That category includes concept development, quality of feedback and language modeling.

DCPS’ Biggest Challenge, in One Chart (WCP, 5/18)

– Arabella Advisors outlines some of the approaches that health funders can take to fulfill unmet needs  in the ever-changing world of healthcare. (Arabella Advisors, 5/18)

Rise in Suicide by Black Children Surprises Researchers (NYT, 5/18)

– Keep powering up that Fitbit! Among 50 of the largest American metropolitan areas, the Washington region ranks number one in a list of the fittest places for the second year in a row. (WTOP, 5/19)

WRAG/PHILANTHROPY | Last week, leaders of nonprofits, philanthropies, and more, came together for WRAG’s first Loudoun County Philanthropy Conference. Check out this recap and some of the key issues that were raised during the event. (Loudoun Times, 5/15)

AFFORDABLE HOUSING | Montgomery County planners recently released a draft of their Bethesda Downtown Plan, which makes recommendations for the area over the next 20 years. Among other things, plans include new park space and the preservation of affordable housing through the density-transfer process. (Bethesda Magazine, 5/15)

ENVIRONMENT | How Has Fairfax County’s Rapid Growth Affected the Environment (WAMU, 5/15)

TRANSPORTATION/POVERTY | A number of recent studies have emerged on the ways in which inadequate transportation can fuel growing inequality in American cities and their surrounding areas, making access to employment, decent schools, and healthy food difficult. Though new modes of public transit pop up every day, low-income residents who live in less than posh neighborhoods still find it hard to get around. (Atlantic, 5/16)

My name is Ciara, but if I was born this year, it would be Nayeli. Find out what your name would be if you were born in another year, based on name trends from the Social Security Administration.


May 18, 2015 / Ciara Myers, Editor

D.C.’s new housing chief discusses homelessness strategy

Family homelessness has persisted as a major issue in the District. Washington City Paper recently sat down with Polly Donaldson, newly appointed head of the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), to discuss how the agency plans to take a leading role in housing the homeless (WCP, 5/15):

[…] Polly Donaldson, tapped to head the Department of Housing and Community Development, most recently led the nonprofit Transitional Housing Corporation, which provides housing and services to hundreds of homeless families each year.

DHCD isn’t directly responsible for serving homeless residents. But with its affordable-housing duties and Donaldson’s homeless-services background, the agency is clearly orienting itself toward tackling the homeless crisis.


“The only way out of a shelter-based system that says shelter is where you’re going to be, is to create other housing opportunities. And we’ve got to be part of the solution.”

– DC Fiscal Policy Institute points to Medicaid as one way to boost permanent supportive housing in the District. (DCFPI, 5/15)

FOOD | Low-income neighborhoods across America are often home to food desserts. Though many stores that offer healthy foods struggle to stay open in hard-hit communities, some stores have found that a more inclusive approach has helped them stay afloat. (NPR, 5/14)

ENVIRONMENT | Could a new FBI headquarters in Greenbelt actually help the Anacostia River? (WaPo, 5/14)

EDUCATION | The Stark Inequality of U.S. Public Schools, Mapped (City Lab, 5/14)

For some odd reason my vacation photos never turn out this good

– Ciara

May 15, 2015 / Ciara Myers, Editor

Friday roundup – May 11 through May 15, 2015

– WRAG’s president, Tamara Copeland, reflected on the information overload that many of us experience on any given day and shared how WRAG is working to become part of the solution. (Daily, 5/11)

Stagnant Wages, Scant Affordable Housing Keep People Homeless in D.C. Region, Report Says (WAMU, 5/13)

– Loudoun County may have its share of wealthy residents, but for many families in the county, the summer months can mean children will face food insecurity while they are out of school. Food banks there are getting prepared for a rise in demand. (WaPo, 5/13)

Related: This week, WRAG hosted our first-ever Loudoun County Philanthropy Conference focusing on the unique needs of residents and discussing strategies to address them. If you are interested in seeing what panelists and participants had to say, you can check out the hashtag #FundLoudoun on Twitter.

– Opinion: More and more studies are coming out about the long-term effects of social programs that support low-income families. Growing research has shown evidence that children whose families received benefits have better outcomes as they enter their 20s and 30s than those whose families did not receive benefits. (NYT, 5/11)

– A study out of Harvard University that took place over several years found that commuting time was the “single strongest factor in the odds of escaping poverty” (NYT, 5/7)

The Washington Post explored whether or not D.C.’s 5-cent fee for plastic bags is actually working to make a difference in the environment. While they seemed skeptical, others say, “yes, it is working.” (WaPo, 5/9 and GGW, 5/15)


Community Wealth Building Initiative Briefing & Call for MORE Action (Funders, nonprofits, local government, business, hospital, and university representatives, and others interested in learning more about this exciting initiative.)
Monday, May 18  9:30 AM – 12:00 PM

You can sell just about anything on Craigslist…but it should probably belong to you before you try to do that

– Ciara

May 14, 2015 / Ciara Myers, Editor

Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments releases new annual report on homelessness in the region

Though there were a number of reports over the last few months that pointed toward disappointing numbers, newly-released results from the annual point-in-time homelessness count found that the Greater Washington region saw a 2.7 percent decrease in homelessness from last year. Despite the slight drop, there is still much room for improvement. (WaPo, 5/13)

The tally, released Wednesday, confirmed a continued crisis of homelessness in the Washington region evident to almost anyone who lives, works or visits the city’s downtown core during winter, when homeless men and women amass in entrances to Metro stops and many other spots where they can stay warm. It also may have understated the challenge still faced by D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D), who has vowed to end chronic homelessness in the city.

Much of the overall dip resulted from a 300-person drop in homeless parents and children in D.C. shelters on the night of the count.

But unlike last year, when the number of homeless families peaked near the date of the 2014 federal count, this year several hundred entered shelter or were placed in overflow motel rooms in the District throughout February, March and even early April.


Beyond the District, numbers of homeless families also surged this winter in the city of Alexandria and in Fairfax, Frederick and Montgomery counties. Given that trend, few on Wednesday celebrated the slight decrease in the total from last year’s count.

The data comes from the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments new annual report, Homelessness in Metropolitan Washington.

–  D.C. Department of Human Services Director Laura Zeilinger spoke on the District’s own six percent decrease in homeless residents, stating that a celebration of the results would be too premature, “because there are still far too many people [who are homeless.] (City Paper, 5/13) 

Southeast D.C. facility for homeless veterans gets a boost (WaPo, 5/13)

WRAG/PHILANTHROPY | Interested in following the conversation from WRAG’s first-ever Loudoun County Philanthropy Conference? Check out the hashtag #FundLoudoun on Twitter to see what panelists and participants are saying.

NONPROFITS | Next month, the Center for Nonprofit Advancement, in partnership with the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region, will hold a new, four-part communications series/training for leaders of nonprofits based in or serving residents of wards 7 or 8. The multi-day training seeks to help organizations strengthen their voices and raise awareness about issues affecting residents east of the river. For more information on how to register, click here.

Opinion: A number of emerging new studies are examining the long-term effects of government programs like the earned-income tax credit, Medicaid, SNAP, and more, on families. Though data can only go back so far, there is evidence that children whose families received benefits have better outcomes as they enter their 20s and 30s than those whose families were denied benefits. (NYT, 5/11)

Obama Urges Liberals and Conservatives to Unite on Poverty (NYT, 5/12)

How well can you read the emotions of others? Sometimes it’s all in the eyes! Take this quiz to see if you can tell what these people are thinking.

– Ciara

May 13, 2015 / Ciara Myers, Editor

Food banks in the region prepare for summer

Though Loudoun County is among one of the wealthiest counties in the nation, food banks there are preparing themselves for the summer surge in demand from many families who rely on their services (WaPo, 5/13):

More than 12,500 children in Loudoun public schools depend on free or reduced-price lunches through their schools, county education officials said. When the school year ends, the missing breakfasts and lunches place considerable pressure on economically vulnerable families, said Jennifer Montgomery, executive director of Loudoun Interfaith Relief.

“In the summer, you have this confluence of events — you have kids getting out of school, and now these parents are scrambling to pay for child care, and they’re also having to find food,” she said.


Although the percentage of people living below the poverty line in Loudoun is fairly low — about 4 to 5 percent, Montgomery said — about 30 percent of the county’s residents are underemployed and scraping by on less than a living wage.

Related: Tomorrow, WRAG will hold our first-ever Loudoun County Philanthropy Conference, focusing on the unique needs of the area with panelists representing the government, nonprofit, and philanthropic sectors. The event will be held at the Middleburg Community Center and is supported by the Claude Moore Charitable Foundation, The Community Foundation for Northern Virginia, and The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region.

A new report by the George Mason University Center for Regional Analysis finds that the need for further transit investment in Northern Virginia is critical in order to elevate the economy and spur business development. Business leaders and elected officials echoed similar sentiments at a recent gathering (Fairfax Times, 5/8):

“In order for this region to remain competitive, we have to have a 21st century transportation network,” said Robert Puentes, a senior fellow with the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program.

Many businesses are already voting with their feet and choosing to relocate to more transit-accessible areas, according to speakers at Friday’s forum.

A Virginia Tech analysis of 2011 U.S. census data found that 59 percent of the jobs in Northern Virginia are located within a quarter mile of a Metro or VRE station or a bus stop. More than 90 percent of new office space in the region is within a half mile of a Metrorail station, according to Shyam Kannan, director of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s Office of Planning.

HOUSING | In a recent ranking of states with the least affordable home prices using 2013 U.S. Census data, the District came in at number two behind Hawaii. (Time, 5/11)

Though it may not be as hot as it was yesterday, outdoor movie season is officially here!

– Ciara
May 11, 2015 / Ciara Myers, Editor

Transportation found to be the strongest factor in odds of moving out of poverty

Happy Monday! We’ll see you again on Wednesday.

In a longitudinal economic study out of Harvard University, inefficient and unreliable transportation was found to be the biggest barrier to moving up the economic ladder for low-income workers (NYT, 5/7):

In a large, continuing study of upward mobility based at Harvard, commuting time has emerged as the single strongest factor in the odds of escaping poverty. The longer an average commute in a given county, the worse the chances of low-income families there moving up the ladder.

The relationship between transportation and social mobility is stronger than that between mobility and several other factors, like crime, elementary-school test scores or the percentage of two-parent families in a community, said Nathaniel Hendren, a Harvard economist and one of the researchers on the study.

WRAG/PHILANTHROPY | In her latest blog post, WRAG president Tamara Copeland reflects on a topic that likely impacts us all – information overload. Read how WRAG is working to become more effective and efficient in the age of too much information. (Daily, 5/11)

EQUITY | The 11th Street Bridge Park project is working to avoid the negative impact that rising property values might have on communities in the Southeast neighborhoods that abut the future park. (Next City, 5/5)

Related: The England Family Foundation is hosting a donor briefing on the park on May 28th at the Anacostia Arts Center from 9:30 AM – 11:15 AM, followed by a walking tour of the site. This briefing is for donors only, but is not exclusively for WRAG members. Please contact Julia Baer-Cooper for details and to RSVP.

DISTRICT | OpinionBaltimore’s ills are D.C.’s too (WaPo, 5/8)

– Whole Foods has earned a reputation for high-priced products and the nickname, “Whole Paycheck.” Amid the company’s recent announcement of a new line of grocery stores geared toward lower-income millennials, City Lab offers a glimpse at how it would look if the grocery chain also focused more on those who receive SNAP benefits. (City Lab, 5/8)

Giving the Poor Easy Access to Healthy Foods Doesn’t Mean They’ll Buy It (NYT, 5/8)

ENVIRONMENT | Is D.C.’s 5-cent fee for plastic bags actually serving its purpose? (WaPo, 5/9)

POVERTY/CHILDREN | Opinion: Childcare expenses continue to rise as some federal assistance for families has not. And still, many low-income mothers are scrutinized for not being able to meet their family’s basic needs. One social worker and executive director of a diaper bank would like to see attitudes toward low-income mothers change for good. (WaPo, 5/8)

Commencement season is upon us. Check out this database of some of the greatest commencement speeches delivered since 1774. Do you remember any wise words from your own graduation ceremony?

– Ciara


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