This brief is packed with fresh ideas and real-world examples aimed at enhancing access to public work supports. It is the product of a national initiative, called The Working Poor Families Project, which supports the policy efforts of state nonprofits seeking to improve economic conditions for America’s vulnerable working families.
Millions of economically fragile families depend on work supports to make ends meet
Findings & Stats
Lingo to Know
Work supports refer to cash and non-cash benefits that help low-income working families narrow the gap between what they earn and what it costs to make ends meet. Examples of work supports include rental subsidies, unemployment insurance, education benefits and earned income tax credits.
Many eligible families are missing out when it comes to work supports. Case in point: Among households that qualify for public health insurance, nutritional aid and child care assistance, just 5% take up all three supports.
A Five-Pronged Focus
The Working Poor Families Project urges its partners to focus their policy efforts in the following five areas: 1) expanding eligibility and outreach; 2) simplifying the application process; 3) streamlining the renewal process; 4) pinpointing performance measures tied to family economic advancement; and 5) supporting state investments in work support programs and systems.
Two Routes to Boosting Access
The two basic approaches for expanding access to work supports are: 1) enhancing outreach efforts to connect with more potential users; and 2) improving how efficiently a system administers benefits.
Model Move: Collegiate Bundling
Central New Mexico Community College — an Annie E. Casey Foundation Center for Working Families site — is one of only a few two-year colleges to consciously connect its students to bundled work supports. The approach has paid off; students receiving these services had a 61% chance of achieving short-term economic success. For students who didn’t receive benefits, this measure dropped to just 16%.
Experts identify six characteristics to check for when selecting new software to aid in outreach and screening. One item on their list? Ensuring that the technology is easy to use and can be catered to address specific population needs, such as reading and language abilities.
Statements & Quotations
Nearly one in three American working families now earn wages so low that they have difficulty surviving financially.
There is no one strategy for strengthening public work support programs.