Helping Working Families Project

In 2004, the YEF Institute provided technical assistance to six cities to help them design or enhance outreach strategies to connect working families to multiple state and federal means-tested benefits, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit, food stamps, child care vouchers, utility assistance, and the Children's Health Insurance Program.

The project was supported by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Joyce Foundation. In addition, the Congressional Hunger Center placed a Bill Emerson Fellow with the YEF Institute to assist with the project.

Project cities included:

  • Cleveland, Ohio;
  • Memphis, Tenn.;
  • Milwaukee, Wis.;
  • New Haven, Conn.;
  • Oakland, Calif.; and
  • Seattle, Wash.

Cities selected to participate in the project received a broad range of benefits, including ten months of ongoing support and assistance from YEF Institute staff in designing or enhancing a multi-benefit outreach campaign; access to resources and expertise in key state and federal benefits through conference calls, materials sharing, and review of community action plans; opportunities to network with each other and learn from their respective experiences, and connections to other programs that offered best practices and innovative strategies.

Each of these cities took steps to connect their residents with key state and federal means-tested benefits. For instance, the City of Seattle worked closely with the State of Washington to pass a local ordinance to prohibit a number of predatory lending practices.

New Haven established the Working Family Partnership, a group of 12 local organizations interested in helping individuals access public benefits for which they are eligible. The city has also trained 27 caseworkers to screen residents for multiple benefits including energy assistance, HUSKY (SCHIP), EITC, food stamps, and the Home Power Program.

In Cleveland, Mayor Jane Campbell built on efforts to promote the EITC by expanding outreach to include other benefits, including food stamps, energy assistance and low-cost health insurance.

The City of Memphis launched an online benefits calculator called EarnBenefits to assist working families in determining their eligibility for local, state, and federal benefits. YEF Institute staff assisted the city in promoting a number of work support programs including job training, housing, and Individual Development Accounts.

Milwaukee used the project to coordinate a multi-benefit outreach campaign with a number of organizations throughout the city. Alderman Michael Murphy and other city leaders built upon their outreach success with low-cost health insurance to include the EITC and food stamps.

The City of Oakland worked with NLC to increase the number of eligible people using federal benefits programs by utilizing RealBenefits software, an online benefits calculator. Leaders also identified strategic partners to overcome language and cultural barriers and reach more of Oakland's residents.