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From Safety Net to Solid Ground

Informing efforts to help struggling families advance toward better opportunities.

From Safety Net to Solid Ground offers timely insights into how potential changes to federal safety net programs might affect the well-being of people striving to cover their basic needs and communities grappling with stagnant economic growth. This Urban Institute initiative also analyzes how states manage these changes and respond to new administrative flexibility, as well as how programs need to adapt to labor market shifts to continue creating the opportunity for all people to thrive and live with dignity.

The initiative builds upon Urban’s 50 years of wide-ranging research on social policies and interventions, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and housing assistance. As today’s social safety net undergoes changes because of a shifting economy, proposed policy changes, and anticipated funding shortfalls created by the new tax legislation, Urban’s experts are providing decisionmakers the critical data they need to understand the implications of federal and state policy shifts and strengthen the national debate about how best to respond. We are also working with partners to catalyze and explore new ideas for strengthening public benefit programs to help empower struggling families in a fast-changing economy.

From Safety Net to Solid Ground offers local, state, and federal policymakers, advocates, practitioners, and philanthropic leaders several resources, including the following:

  • Timely, rigorous analyses of federal policy changes. By employing a suite of microsimulation models that Urban has designed and enhanced over decades, we examine income, taxes, health care, and the value of key assistance programs to provide a tailored picture of how policy proposals would affect the health and economic well-being of people and communities.
  • Insights into how states manage change and employ administrative flexibility. Urban is investigating and providing insights on how states might reconfigure their social programs, adopt new approaches, and position themselves to absorb potential reductions in funding from federal budgets or shifting tax revenues.
  • Evidence on how policy changes are implemented in communities. The Safety Net to Solid Ground initiative will examine how specific policy changes—such as the expansion of work requirements for Medicaid, time limits for participation, changes in eligibility and benefit levels, and limited funding for federal discretionary programs—are implemented across the nation. Our experts will also assess how these policy choices affect the way nonprofits and other nongovernmental actors respond to needs in the communities they serve.
  • An assessment of Americans’ health and well-being. Our experts track changes in health and well-being that could result from shifts in safety net programs and the economy. The initiative will use national surveys and data from Urban’s new Well-Being and Basic Needs Survey to measure Americans’ job quality and security, access to food and health care, optimism and confidence about the future, and family stability. We will also document how families experience policy changes in their everyday lives.

Illustration by Shannon Ryan for the Urban Institute.

Initiative Leadership

Initiative Leadership

Genevieve M. Kenney, Vice President, Health Policy 

Stephen Zuckerman, Vice President, Health Policy 

Elaine Waxman, Senior Fellow, Income and Benefits Policy Center

Heather Hahn, Senior Fellow, Center on Labor, Human Services, and Population

Work Requirements Tracker

Data Viz

Work Requirements Tracker

Use our tracker to explore work requirement policies in public assistance programs across states.

The Well-Being and Basic Needs Survey

Project

The Well-Being and Basic Needs Survey

Launched in December 2017, the Well-Being and Basic Needs Survey (WBNS) monitors the ability of individuals and families to meet their basic needs at a time when the safety net faces a period of transition. Urban researchers are using the survey to develop a broader understanding of material well-being beyond income-based poverty indicators.

Work Requirements in Safety Net Programs

Project

Work Requirements in Safety Net Programs

Current policy proposals expand work requirements for all federal assistance programs. Urban research explores implementation and potential effects. 

Updates from the Urban Institute

Updates from the Urban Institute