Work Support Strategies: Streamlining Access, Strengthening Families is a multi-year demonstration project that offers a small group of competitively selected states the opportunity to design, test, and implement 21st century public benefits system. Over the course of a planning year and three implementation years, WSS aims to dramatically improve the delivery of key work support benefits to low-income families, including health coverage, nutrition benefits, and child care subsidies through more effective, streamlined, and integrated approaches. The initiative builds on recent state and federal innovation while taking these efforts to a new level. Funded by the Ford Foundation, the Open Society Foundations, The Annie E. Casey Foundation, and The Kresge Foundation, Work Support Strategies is directed by CLASP in partnership with the Urban Institute (evaluation and fiscal management lead) the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (technical assistance lead).
This initiative has three goals:
- Improve the health and well-being of low-income families, stabilize their family and work lives, and enable them to progress in the workforce by increasing the share of eligible families (and, in those states that choose to include them, individuals outside families) that receive and keep the package of work supports and benefits for which they qualify;
- Deliver benefits more effectively and efficiently, reducing state administrative burdens as well as the burden on clients, through technologically savvy and customer-driven methods of eligibility determination, enrollment, and retention; and
- Disseminate lessons from the experiences of the demonstration states to inform broader state and federal policies through a rigorous evaluation component.
The initiative consists of two phases: a one-year planning phase and a three-year implementation phase.
- Phase I (Planning): Nine states were competitively selected from 27 applications to participate in the planning phase of the project. During the planning phase, each of the nine state grantees received one-year grants of $250,000, expert technical assistance, and peer support from other grantees. They performed intensive diagnostic self-assessments, explored business process strategies, established leadership structures, and developed data-driven action plans addressing both policy and practice changes.
- Phase II (Implementation): Six states will recieve funding in the range of $400,000 to $500,000 per year for three years to implement their strategic action plans. They will receive continued technical assistance and peer support to execute the strategies they have developed during Phase I to create a more integrated, responsive, and flexible work support system.
What the Initiative Offers to Selected States
Planning Grant. The nine states selected to participate in Phase I of the initiative received planning grants of $250,000 for one year.
Implementation Grants. The six states participating in the implementation phase of the initiative receive multi-year grants of approximately $1-1.5 million over three years to implement their action plans.
Technical Assistance and Peer-to-Peer Support. States receive on-going and tailored technical assistance from national experts in policy, operations, program evaluation, and project management based on their unique needs, including on-site visits and telephone support. They also build close connections to peers in other states to share experiences and problem-solve collaboratively.
Information-Sharing with Federal Officials. The initiative provides a structure for promoting exchange between state and federal officials and offering input to federal policymakers, including information about state experiences, challenges and innovations and state ideas for policy guidance and clarifications. The WSS team is committed to sharing information, lessons, questions, and concerns surfaced by the experiences of the demonstration states with the relevant federal agencies.
In Phase I, the evaluation documented each participating state’s planning year, including their goals, activities undertaken, challenges encountered and approaches chosen to overcome them. This work culminated in a report for each state and a cross-cutting report that discussed key lessons from the states’ experiences.
Phase II of the WSS evaluation has three major goals: to document, understand, and draw lessons from the implementation of WSS activities in the states; to identify and track over time key outcomes that we would expect to be affected by the state’s activities and interventions; and to measure the effect WSS or specific activities under WSS on key outcomes. To meet these goals, the Phase II evaluation will include implementation analyses and data-tracking activities for all six states as well as impact analyses to provide quantitative causal results, where feasible. Each state’s evaluation will be tailored to their particular activities, goals, priorities, and data availability. The overall evaluation will combine information, analyzing data and results from across the states.