CLASP Announces New Advocacy Initiative to Promote Benefit Access

CLASP is excited to announce Advancing Strategies to Align Programs (ASAP), a new advocacy initiative to help state advocates working to increase enrollment in work support programs, particularly Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP – formerly known as food stamps), through program alignment and information sharing. Drawing on lessons from Work Support Strategies (WSS) and leveraging opportunities created by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), this initiative comes at a time when many advocates and states are focused on providing work supports in the most efficient and integrated  manner.

Advocates in five states – Colorado, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Mexico, and Pennsylvania – will receive support from CLASP to advocate for improved delivery systems and integration of key work support programs, with a specific emphasis on Medicaid and SNAP. In partnership with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, CLASP will also provide grantees with in-depth technical assistance and share lessons learned from the project with a broader audience of advocates.

Many individuals and families who are eligible for core benefit programs do not participate, and participation rates vary by state. For example, in 2012, 83 percent of Americans eligible for SNAP benefits received them, but in Colorado, only 76 percent received them. National participation rates are lower for the full package of programs; despite the large overlap in eligibility for Medicaid and SNAP, one estimate found that just 58 percent of children who were likely to be eligible for both SNAP and Medicaid received both programs in 2009, while 14 percent received neither. Even among those who receive work supports, people often “churn” on and off benefits, creating instability for families and consuming time and resources of both participants and state agencies.  As demonstrated by WSS, states can expand access and reduce the burden on both participants and states by using information provided to one program to certify or re-determine eligibility for another program.

Increasing participation will ensure low-income people have the health insurance and nutrition support to meet their basic needs and achieve stability, allowing adults to succeed at work and promoting children’s healthy development. A significant and growing body of evidence shows that participation in work support programs improves short- and long-term health, educational, and economic outcomes. Research also suggests that receiving the full package of work support benefits, rather than just a single program, can be of particular importance in helping low-income people stabilize their lives.

The ASAP grantees, selected through a competitive process, have a history of providing a strong advocacy voice in their communities and generating policy and administrative change—often in concert with their state agencies—to improve access to work support programs. ASAP resources will allow advocates to bring a deeper focus to their administrative advocacy, helping them promote state-specific solutions that reduce barriers to benefit access for low-income workers.  CLASP looks forward to supporting these advocates and to sharing lessons learned through this initiative with others around the country.

ASAP Grantees:

Community Legal Services of Philadelphia

Hunger Free Colorado

Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law

Massachusetts Law Reform Institute

New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty