Financial stability can be an elusive goal in our struggling economy, but its importance cannot be overstated. When people have jobs that support their families, their futures—and those of our communities—are brighter.

But self-sufficiency can be hard to come by. In our region, a family of four must make $48,000 or more annually to support themselves, and 72 percent of available jobs pay less than that. In fact, 70 percent of children in Cincinnati live in families that have less money than needed to be self-sufficient.

It’s clear that we need to come together to address these problems. The United Way of Greater Cincinnati is committed to helping people earn, maintain and grow their income. As United Way board chair, I have seen firsthand how our United Way has made a difference—on its own and in conjunction with so many companies across Cincinnati, like EY, where I lead more than 300 professionals as managing partner.

For example, EY supports the United Way’s volunteer tax preparation program to make sure deserving families claim the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit. These credits are two of the nation’s most effective pro-work, anti-poverty policies, and they have an immediate, measurable impact on families and children. Last year, $21.3 million in tax credits were returned to more than 18,000 families across our region, and we expect the program to have an even greater impact in 2017.

This volunteer effort is only a small part of how our EY professionals contribute to the United Way year-round. On EY Connect Day—our corporate day of caring—our entire office rolls up its sleeves to assist United Way agencies. You can find us sorting canned goods at the Freestore Foodbank, cooking lunch and playing games with residents at Tender Mercies, and teaching lessons and mentoring in local classrooms. Giving back to the community allows our people to connect with each other, strengthen existing community relationships and form new ones. They have told us they find great value and purpose in volunteering, as it helps them develop their leadership skills while they are helping others.

While these efforts make a difference today, we also believe in investing in future generations of children. Last year, EY worked with numerous businesses and community organizations, like the United Way, to support Issue 44, a tax levy designed to provide support of K-12 programs at Cincinnati Public Schools and to fund quality preschool for 6,000 3- and 4-year-olds. Breaking the cycle of poverty starts at the youngest ages, and participation in quality preschool directly affects kindergarten readiness, third-grade reading and high school graduation rates.

Each of these efforts is a source of pride at EY, and we are honored to have received the United Way’s Corporate Heroes award for the past two years. United Way’s vision of a world where all individuals and families achieve their human potential through education, income stability and healthy lives is accomplished by bringing together many stakeholders. I encourage you to consider how you can engage with United Way and welcome the opportunity to discuss further: 

Julia Poston is the managing partner for Ernst & Young LLP’s Cincinnati office, supporting the development of more than 300 professionals and providing oversight to the firm’s assurance, advisory, tax and transaction services. She has served in a number of capacities on the United Way of Greater Cincinnati, including as board member, executive committee member, chair of impact cabinet, chair of accountability and services cabinet and currently as board chair.

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