Many Americans work hard every day but do not earn enough to save and prosper, let alone take additional steps to move towards greater economic security, such as obtaining a postsecondary degree or credential. Far too many Americans struggle with long-term unemployment or underemployment caused by the Great Recession. Work supports are funded under existing government programs and help people and families who qualify make ends meet and move to self-sufficiency. These supports include tax credits (such as the Earned Income Tax Credit), nutrition assistance (such as food stamps, now called SNAP), health insurance (such as children’s health insurance and Medicaid), student financial aid (such as Pell Grants), and veteran’s education and training benefits (such as the new GI Bill).
When claimed, these supports encourage and sustain employment, improve welfare-to-work success rates, improve health outcomes, and reduce recidivism among the formerly incarcerated. These supports are funded primarily through federal dollars, and when claimed boost local economic development as families spend those supports to buy local goods and services.
The problem is that work supports are underutilized across the United States. More than $72 billion in work supports are unclaimed annually by families that do not apply. The Work Supports Initiative aims to address this problem and move families to self-sufficiency through grassroots outreach using an online expert service called The Benefit Bank®. The initiative has helped other states replicate the outreach model pioneered by The Ohio Benefit Bank, where more than 5,000 counselors from over 1,000 faith-based and community organizations have helped low-income Ohioans apply for work supports worth more than $600 million since 2006. See a video about The Ohio Benefit Bank here.
In North Carolina, MDC manages a statewide initiative, called The Benefit Bank of North Carolina, to connect families with these supports. MDC’s presence and leadership in the state allows the opportunity to design and implement projects in the areas of postsecondary education and training completion, healthcare access, and reducing recidivism among formerly incarcerated people.
Under our national leadership of the Work Supports Initiative, MDC also supports statewide nonprofit intermediaries to replicate these projects using The Benefit Bank in other states, such as South Carolina, Indiana, and Texas.
- To deepen social outcomes from and demonstrate sustainable models of outreach using The Benefit Bank
- To set more Americans on the path to financial self-sufficiency by providing bundled services deployed by strategic partners in health care, education, prisoner re-entry, veterans support, and employment services
- To invigorate the local economies with millions of additional federal dollars each year
- Helped to establish outreach using The Benefit Bank in North Carolina, South Carolina, Indiana, and Texas
- The Benefit Bank of North Carolina has established more than 300 sites and trained over 1,000 counselors, who have helped families claim more than $32 million in work supports since April 2010
- The Benefit Bank of South Carolina has established over 400 sites and trained more than 1,600 counselors who have helped families claim over $52 million in supports since January 2010
- Developing outreach and sustainability models to deepen social outcomes using The Benefit Bank, such as increasing postsecondary completion among low-income students and displaced workers, improving the health of low-income patients, and reducing recidivism among formerly incarcerated people