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MAKING OUR VOICE HEARD - advocating for youth and families 

OR Alliance_community infographic_update

April 26, 2021

The Oregon Department of Education Early Learning Division is partnering with the Oregon Alliance of YMCAs to support overnight and day camps in Oregon.

The Governor, in partnership with the Oregon Legislature’s Emergency Board, allocated $10 million from the General Fund of the 2019-2021 Biennium. The Oregon Alliance of YMCAs will disburse 165 grants to assist youth overnight and day camp providers during the COVID-19 crisis. This grant program uses General Fund resources to support organizations that were restricted or limited in operating camp programs for youth in 2020. 

Youth camp providers have been asked to implement COVID-19 safety and health practices that require more staff time and resources. This additional support will ensure these businesses critical to supporting Oregon families can survive. Grant funds may be used to reimburse those costs that are necessary operating, personnel or facility expenses related to early learning programs; were not accounted for from other revenue in the recipient's budget most recently approved as of February 1, 2021; and were or are incurred during the period between January 1, 2021 through June 30, 2021.

Recipients are located across the state in nearly every county and in a typical year would serve over 300,000 youth and families. Awards are currently being announced to licensed organizational camps, Boys & Girls Clubs, YMCAs, Park and Recreation Departments, OMSI, Boy Scout camps, Girl Scout camps, youth arts and science organizations, 4-H Centers, Christian camp and conference centers, and both private and non-profit organizations that conduct overnight camps and day camps for 5 - 18 year olds that meet in sessions of at least 5 days a week.  

Funding was prioritized to organizations and agencies that serve the higher numbers of underserved youth, including youth in poverty, as measured by eligibility for free- or reduced-price lunch, BIPOC youth, migrant youth, refugee and/or immigrant youth, English language learners, youth experiencing homelessness, youth in foster care, LGBTQ youth, youth involved in the criminal justice system, youth with disabilities, including physical, developmental, and/or intellectual disabilities; or special health care needs.

Eligible organizations reported they provide nearly $3.7 million in financial assistance in the form of full or partial camp scholarships for low-income youth and their families in 2019. This funding will allow them to provide even more.


During the pandemic, outdoor activities for youth have been reduced. Data from the National Youth Impact Study showed that there was a large reduction in youth participation in activities outside of the home during summer 2020. In particular, this impact was more apparent for youth from lower-income homes, highlighting the importance of continuing to provide support for these youth to access and attend camp programs during summer 2021 and beyond.

The return on the investment for out-of-school time programming is significant. Access to out-of-school time (OST) programs like camp is inequitably distributed across our state; youth who stand to gain the most from OST programs (youth in low-income communities and BIPOC youth) face the biggest barriers to participation. The March 2021 OregonASK Afterschool Investment Report demonstrated that public investment to increase the affordability of and access to afterschool programs is beneficial to our state in every possible way; not only do afterschool programs create academic, social, and community-based benefits for Oregon’s youth and families, but they are also a sound fiscal strategy that yields returns quadrupling the initial investment.

Become a Y Advocate!

Believing that everyone, regardless of age, income or background, deserves to be healthy, confident, connected and secure, the Y is a powerful ally and advocate for our communities.

With a focus on youth development, healthy living and social responsibility, the Y collaborates with national and community-based leaders and policymakers to increase the resources and support that empower individuals, families and communities to learn, grow and thrive.

As an advocate of the Y, YOU can help: 
  • Influence policies and initiatives that help youth develop healthy behaviors, values and life skills

  • Prevent and combat chronic disease

  • Build trust and understanding among community groups and decision makers

  • Positively impact societal issues of importance to the nation and your community


Advocate in support of a movement working every day to build healthier communities.
  • The Y has been listening and responding to our communities' most critical and social needs for nearly 170 years. Let your voice be heard and counted by reaching out to your elected officials. 

  • Join the YMCA Advocates Action Network 

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2021 National Advocacy Days  - Meeting with Rep. Suzanne Bonamici

Advocacy in Action 2021

  • Testified and provided amendment language on Oregon SB 50 regarding Central Background Registry

  • Testimonial on HB3073 regarding Early Learning (Passed)

  • Testified on SB513 Civics Education Act (Passed)

  • Advocacy for increasing Unemployment Reimbursement for self-insured Ys to 50% and working on getting that increased to 75% to 100% and retroactive to 2020

  • Programmatic Request to Senators Merkley and Wyden asking them to request the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee to allocate $600,000,000 to restore the FY2020 enacted FEMA funding level, including $100,000,000 for reimbursing direct payments to child care providers that will enhance a community’s ability to recover from a natural disaster or other devastating event.

  • Letter to the Labor, HHS, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee requesting funding for CDC's National Center on Injury Prevention and Control to enhance its drowning prevention activities supporting funding for the CDC to begin to scale drowning prevention programs, like the Y’s Safety Around Water program, and advance other needed national and state strategies.

Statesman Journal, August 14, 2020



Use CARES Act funding for after school, summer programs that parents depend on

By Sue Bloom, Marisa Fink and Beth Unverzagt

It recently became clear that most Oregon students will stay home this fall and participate in Comprehensive Distance Learning.

This reality has many implications for families across the state, many of whom depend upon schools as a safe place to send their kids during the day while parents go to work. But with schools closed, parents are forced to make impossible decisions.

Since March, nonprofits that provide “out-of-school” programming like Boys & Girls Clubs and YMCAs have stepped up to provide a safe space for some of Oregon’s most vulnerable children, providing academic support, social-emotional skill building and basic necessities.

These programs bridge the gap between school and home and have expanded their services during this crisis, providing free food and meal delivery as well as online, at-home educational, recreational and prevention programming for youth and parents.

Perhaps most importantly, these programs have filled the gap created by the closure of in-person learning at schools and offered emergency childcare, allowing parents to return to work.

As we look ahead to this fall and reduced time in the classroom, we know this will disproportionately affect the youth we serve, unless we are able to increase our programming and capacity to fill the gap.

The state and federal government have allocated relief funds to industries, communities and individuals who are struggling through this crisis. But those who are providing critical services for Oregon’s most vulnerable children and families have been forgotten.

Programs like Boys & Girls Clubs and YMCAs have increased their operating hours and decreased their child-to-staff ratio to safely provide vital services during this crisis, all while struggling from a decline in revenue due to canceled events, reduced program fees and withdrawn grants.

The services these organizations provide is more important now than ever. As the state provides relief funding for industries that have been severely impacted by COVID-19, they must also provide for those who need our support the most to fulfill their basic needs.

The Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Funds in the CARES Act can be used to strengthen after school and summer programs. On behalf of the 176,601 students we serve in 18 counties, more than half of whom are low-income, we are asking the governor to allocate CARES act funding to these nonprofit programs to allow us to deliver supplemental education programs and emergency childcare during the 2020-2021 school year.

Youth service programs and facilities are critical to the support communities need to recover from the economic and social impacts of COVID-19. We know that 44% of children in Oregon are living in low-income households and 23% are food insecure.

We must ensure that the families most impacted by this crisis can keep their children safe and provided for. Please ensure that our nonprofits are able to continue to fill the gap created by school closures so that all youth across Oregon have access and opportunity to reach their full potential.

Sue Bloom is president of the Boys & Girls Clubs Oregon Alliance. You may reach her at Marisa Fink is the executive director of the Oregon Alliance of YMCAs. You may reach her at Beth Unverzagt is the director of OregonASK. You may reach her at

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The Oregonian, August 16, 2020

Readers respond: Nonprofit childcare providers need state’s help

Most Oregon students will participate in online learning this fall, forcing parents ­– many of whom depend upon schools as a safe place to send their kids during the day – to make impossible decisions. 

Since March, nonprofits that provide out-of-school programming like Boys & Girls Clubs and YMCAs have provided safe spaces for some of Oregon’s most vulnerable children. These programs have filled the gap created by school closures and offered emergency childcare for essential workers, allowing parents to return to work. Without reliable, quality, affordable out-of-school care, there is no economic recovery. 

Boys & Girls Clubs and YMCAs have increased operating hours and followed guidance to safely provide vital services during this crisis, while struggling from decreased revenue. These services are more important now than ever as continued school closures will disproportionately affect low-income families who cannot afford increased costs of care.  

While the state is providing relief funding for industries impacted by COVID-19, it must also provide relief for those who need our support the most to fulfill their basic needs. 

On behalf of the 176,601 students we serve in 18 counties, more than half of whom are low-income, we are asking the governor and legislators to allocate CARES Act funding to nonprofit programs to allow us to support distance learning and provide emergency childcare during the 2020-2021 school year. 

We must ensure that the children most impacted by this crisis are safe and provided for by supporting nonprofits in continuing to fill the gap created by school closures. 

Sue Bloom, President of Boys & Girls Clubs Oregon Alliance

Marisa Fink, Executive director of Oregon Alliance of YMCAs 

Beth Unverzagt, Director of OregonASK

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