SEED Win­nipeg grows with United Way help

Winnipeg Free Press - - COMMUNITY VOICES -

PENING a bank ac­count, fil­ing a tax re­turn, in­vest­ing money for a child’s fu­ture ed­u­ca­tion — for many Winnipeggers, these things don’t pose too much of an ob­sta­cle.

For those who face big bar­ri­ers to ba­sic fi­nan­cial sta­bil­ity, how­ever, SEED (Sup­port­ing Em­ploy­ment & Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment) Win­nipeg has been there to help since 1994.

“We’re re­ally in­ter­ested in work­ing with peo­ple who are liv­ing on a low in­come, be­cause we were formed to ad­dress poverty,” co-direc­tor Louise Sim­ban­dumwe says.

SEED Win­nipeg also makes a point of work­ing with clients who are In­dige­nous, dis­abled, are rais­ing chil­dren on their own or have been in con­tact with the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem, as those peo­ple face a greater risk of liv­ing in poverty.

Roughly 10 per cent of Winnipeggers live in poverty, ac­cord­ing to United Way Win­nipeg, in­clud­ing nearly one out of ev­ery four chil­dren in the city. How­ever, help­ing fam­i­lies achieve fi­nan­cial em­pow­er­ment can be a big step for­ward.

For ex­am­ple, one of SEED Win­nipeg’s in-de­mand ser­vices is help­ing peo­ple ap­ply for the gov­ern­ment ben­e­fits for which they’re el­i­gi­ble, such as dis­abil­ity and child ben­e­fits.

In SEED Win­nipeg’s last fis­cal year, it helped more than 1,200 peo­ple ac­cess such ben­e­fits in the form of tax cred­its and re­funds.

“Those folks are ex­pected to re­ceive $7.3 mil­lion in in­come tax re­funds and re­lated ben­e­fits, so that’s a huge re­turn on in­vest­ment,” Sim­ban­dumwe says.

Other SEED Win­nipeg clients ben­e­fit from help open­ing regis­tered ed­u­ca­tion sav­ings plans, open­ing ba­sic no-fee bank ac­counts and get­ting the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion they need to ac­cess gov­ern­ment and fi­nan­cial ser­vices.

“There are lots of folks who ac­tu­ally don’t have ba­sic iden­ti­fi­ca­tion. I com­pletely took that for granted un­til

Owe started do­ing this work,” Sim­ban­dumwe says. “We didn’t re­al­ize that that was a bar­rier.”

As SEED Win­nipeg works to break through those bar­ri­ers, it gets crit­i­cal sup­port from United Way Win­nipeg and its donors. United Way fund­ing com­prised nearly one-quar­ter of SEED Win­nipeg’s 2017-18 bud­get, and Sim­ban­dumwe says the money goes far.

“What’s re­mark­able about United Way is they pro­vide sta­ble, core fund­ing,” she says. “It’s al­most like the foun­da­tion of what we do.”

That kind of steady an­nual fund­ing lets SEED Win­nipeg “be re­ally re­spon­sive to com­mu­nity needs,” she adds.

“It also al­lows us to pro­vide some sta­bil­ity to staff,” Sim­ban­dumwe says. “So we’re able to keep ex­cel­lent staff on, as op­posed to be­ing re­liant on project fund­ing all the time and then hav­ing to only hire peo­ple for terms.”

This year, United Way Win­nipeg aims to raise $21 mil­lion to help lo­cal or­ga­ni­za­tions such as SEED Win­nipeg make a pos­i­tive dif­fer­ence in the com­mu­nity.

RUTH BON­NEVILLE / WIN­NIPEG FREE PRESS

Louise Sim­ban­dumwe, co-direc­tor of non-profit SEED Win­nipeg, says United Way fund­ing lets SEED ‘be re­ally re­spon­sive to com­mu­nity needs.’

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