United Way of Rhode Island Commits $100 Million to Racial Equality

United Way of Rhode Island, Providence, R.I., has earmarked $100 million over the next five years to promote racial equality in Rhode Island. The funding was announced alongside the launch of Live United 2025, a new social good program.

Live United 2025 aims to advance core pillars of racial equality: increasing reading proficiency and access to out-of-school programs for Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) youth; universal affordable housing; advancements in adult education and workforce development; changing policies that perpetuate racial inequities; and building nonprofit capacity.

“This plan is intentional and focused so our investments make the biggest impact toward reversing the racial inequities holding back Rhode Island,” United Way’s President and CEO Cortney Nicolato said via a statement. “Where we began developing our plan before the pandemic, COVID-19 reinforced the painful reminder of the work ahead and the disparities we must overcome.”

The program’s specific goals include doubling the number of Rhode Island communities that meet the 10 percent affordable housing threshold; generating a 50 percent participation increase in out-of-school time learning in low-income communities; investing $5 million in capacity building programs (those that meet an organization’s basic operational, as opposed to programmatic, needs); and, a 25 percent reduction in under- and unemployment among people of color.

“Housing is a fundamental right that remains out of reach for many Rhode Islanders. And this right intersects with every aspect of our lives — health, education and financial,” United Way Board Chair and interim President and CEO of Blue Cross & Blue Shield of R.I. Michele Lederberg said via a statement. “We may have been taught that all races are equal, but the data demonstrates that not everyone has been treated the same or afforded the same opportunities. This struggle has undermined our state’s ability to thrive for too long.”

In December 2020, philanthropist MacKenzie Scott donated $10 million to United Way in support of the work outlined in Live United 2025. Other supporters include Providence, R.I.-based Brown University, which committed $600,000 over four years, as well as Blue Cross & Blue Shield of R.I., CVS Health, Rhode Island AFL-CIO, state leadership, R.I. Dept. of Education, and others.