Many Americans work hard every day but do not earn enough to save and prosper, let alone take advantage of postsecondary educational opportunities to move towards greater economic security. Far too many of the resources designed to help assist these families and individuals go unclaimed every year – leaving nearly $72 billion on the table. The Work Supports Initiative is designed to build community-based capacity to directly connect more vulnerable populations with the supports and essential services to stabilize their household finances, secure valuable educational and training opportunities, and grow long-term wealth.
When secured, works supports reduce poverty, encourage and sustain employment, improve welfare-to-work success rates, improve health outcomes, increase economic mobility, and reduce recidivism among the formerly incarcerated. The core bundle of supports includes tax credits (such as the Earned Income Tax Credit), nutrition assistance (such as food stamps, now called SNAP), health insurance (CHIP/Medicaid, subsidized insurance through the Affordable Care Act), and student financial aid (such as Pell Grants and the new GI Bill).
The Work Supports Initiative initially helped other states replicate the outreach model pioneered by The Ohio Benefit Bank, where more than 3,000 counselors from over 1,000 faith-based and community organizations have helped low-income Ohioans apply for work supports worth more than $1.4 billion since 2006. See a video about The Ohio Benefit Bank here. As part of the Work Supports Initiative, MDC’s efforts include:
- In North Carolina, MDC prepared a feasibility analysis, commissioned by the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, about bringing outreach using The Benefit Bank to North Carolina and then helped to launch and now manages a statewide initiative, called The Benefit Bank of North Carolina, to connect families with supports.
- In South Carolina, MDC helped to frame issues of poverty to be addressed, organize stakeholders to address those problems, secured funding for and launched The Benefit Bank of South Carolina, now operated by the organization SC Thrive.
- In Virginia, MDC prepared a feasibility analysis, commissioned by six Virginia foundations, to analyze the feasibility of combining the Integrated Services Delivery model with The Benefit Bank. The report formed the basis for a $12 million grant awarded to the Virginia Workforce Development System to establish the Virginia Financial Success Network, which is demonstrating the recommended model at six One-Stop Career Centers. MDC is being retained as a consultant to this project.
Applying the work in communities:
Building upon this prior success, MDC is moving towards working with communities to create and operate “Family Success Networks,” envisioned as technology-enabled networks of human services providers working together to connect more low-income families with integrated services and available resources that are proven to reduce poverty. This new effort combines many areas of MDC expertise, including:
- Applying MDC’s theory of place-based change (frame problems to be addressed, organize leaders to solve those problems, demonstrate evidence-based solutions, and scale and sustain what works)
- Using collective impact strategies (common agenda, mutually reinforcing activities, backbone organization, shared measurement, and continuous communication)
- Coaching organizations on Integrated Services Delivery
- Combining outreach and technology to connect low-income families with resources
- To deepen social outcomes from and demonstrate sustainable models combining outreach and technology, such as 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 local economies with millions of additional federal dollars each year
- Helped to establish outreach and enrollment programs using The Benefit Bank in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia
- The Benefit Bank of North Carolina has helped families apply for supports worth more than $71 million
- The Benefit Bank of South Carolina has helped families apply for supports worth more than $188 million