Work Support Strategies: Streamlining Access, Strengthening Families
The Work Support Strategies (WSS) initiative provided a select group of states funding and technical assistance to design, test, and implement more effective, streamlined, and integrated approaches to delivering key supports (including health coverage, nutrition benefits, and child care subsidies) for low-income working families. The initiative, which wrapped-up in early 2016, was funded by the Ford Foundation, Open Society Foundations, Annie E. Casey Foundation, Kresge Foundation, and JPMorgan & Chase Co. The combined resources were invested over a five-year period. WSS provided states the expert technical assistance, peer support, and financial backing needed to take their efforts to the next level. The initiative consisted of two phases: a one-year planning phase and a three-year implementation phase. An in-depth evaluation describing state activities and lessons learned, tracking results, and analyzing impacts of the initiative is being conducted by the Urban Institute. Publications and other resources from WSS are available here.
A brief summary of each state's context and a video in which they discuss their experience with the WSS initative can be found on the grantees page. Please click on the map below.
This article, originally published in the April 2017 issues of APHSA's Policy and Practice magazine, draws on the lessons learned from the Work Support Strategies initiative that helped states improve access to benefits while reducing the burden of the bureaucratic processes.
Governor Otter shares his reflections on the successes of the Work Support Strategies initiative in Idaho. Governor Otter says, "The results were significant and have set an important foundation for continued improvements to our programs and administration as we serve and support Idaho families."
As the public debates key work supports like Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Work Support Strategies’ (WSS) final evaluation report provides crucial evidence about what works and what doesn’t to support low-income people. WSS was a multi-year, foundation-funded initiative providing states financial support and technical assistance to reform their delivery of public benefits. The report finds that the six states participating in WSS substantially improved eligible children’s and parents’ participation in safety net programs, as well as dramatically reduced the time it takes to deliver benefits. Moreover, states accomplished these goals without spending more money on administrative costs or increasing errors; rather, they used existing flexibility within the programs, proving that block grants aren’t needed to achieve these striking results.
Millions of working parents qualify for food, medical, and child care assistance that can help them support their families. However, accessing these supports can be difficult or confusing. Six states participated in the Work Support Strategies initiative to help modernize and streamline state benefit delivery systems so low-income families can get and keep the full package of work supports for which they are eligible. This final report finds that states made progress in delivering benefits faster, reducing client wait times and paperwork, reducing unnecessary gaps in service, and increasing the number of eligible families who received multiple benefits.
The Urban Institute highlights what six states accomplished under the Work Support Strategies initiative, a foundation-funded effort to streamline state benefit delivery systems so low-income families can get and keep the full package of work supports for which they are eligible. After the five years of the initiative, states delivered benefits faster; reduced wait times, paperwork, and unnecessary gaps in service; and increased the number of eligible families who received multiple benefits.
New evidence shows that states can make dramatic improvements in the delivery of key work supports to low-income families, including nutrition assistance under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), health insurance under Medicaid, and child care subsidies.
Streamlining Access, Strengthening Families
Through grants, expert technical assistance, and peer learning, the WSS initiative helped Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, North Carolina, Rhode Island, and South Carolina reform, modernize, align, and integrate the systems delivering work support programs to increase families' well-being and stability. This brief summarizes the changes the states made, the outcomes of those changes, and what we learned from their experiences.
Changes in Joint Medicaid/CHIP and SNAP Participation Rates, 2011 to 2013
This brief examines changes over time in the joint participation rate—the extent to which individuals who are eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and public health insurance coverage (Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program) receive both. These findings demonstrate states can implement changes to improve access to the both SNAP and Medicaid.
FORUM: Making Government Programs Work for Families
On June 28, the Urban Institute in collaboration with CLASP and CBPP hosted a discussion on how states and the federal government can improve access to work support programs for low-income families. This event highlighted lessons learned from Work Support Strategies (WSS) with a panel of experts from both the national and state perspective. Watch a recording of the forum here.
WEBINAR: Seamless Renewals: Using Existing Data to Renew Benefits and Prevent Coverage Gaps
This webinar looks at best practices of using ex parte renewals for Medicaid and how the process can be coordinated with SNAP to reduce the number of eligible people who lose Medicaid and SNAP at renewal. View the webinar and resources here.
12 Lessons on Program Integration and Innovation
This paper distills 12 key lessons from WSS to inform leaders and advocates in states, counties, and cities that face similar challenges. These lessons are gleaned from the reflections of participating states—from agency leaders to local office staff—as well as the organizations that provided technical assistance, coaching, and evaluation.
Urban Wire: Modernizing How Public Agencies Deliver Work Support Benefits
Blogpost from the Urban Institute
The Work Support Strategies project was led by a partnership of three national organizations: CLASP, Urban Institute, and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Olivia Golden, the project director for Work Support Strategies, is executive director of CLASP.
To learn about CLASP's other initiatives on work supports, click here.