Analyzing proposals and policies that help families advance toward better opportunities.  

Today’s social safety net faces pressure from economic forces and a changing labor market that threaten to exacerbate poverty and leave struggling families further behind. Policy shifts at the federal and state levels and anticipated funding shortfalls could limit people’s access to programs that help them meet their basic needs.

The Urban Institute’s From Safety Net to Solid Ground initiative sheds light on how these potential changes could affect the lives of individuals and families across the country. Building on Urban’s track record of rapid response research on health and tax policy proposals and deep expertise on federal safety net programs, we offer timely insights on federal and state policy changes to Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, housing assistance, and other social service programs. Specifically, we are examining the implementation and potential impact of expanded work requirements, time limits for participation, expansion of “public charge” and other regulatory changes, changes in eligibility rules and benefit levels, and funding cuts to federal discretionary programs.

The data and insights we deliver help decisionmakers, advocates, practitioners, and philanthropic leaders understand the expected outcomes and unintended consequences of policy choices. Our work encompasses the following:

Forecasting the Impact of Safety Net Policy Proposals
Through microsimulation tools, including the Analysis of Transfers, Taxes, and Income Security model, we assess the reach and adequacy of individual safety net policies and programs and how they interact. These tools also allow us to estimate impacts of policy changes at the state and federal levels for individuals and families. 

Understanding Who Uses the Safety Net and How They Use It
We use census and administrative datasets to understand the economic characteristics and health and educational barriers faced by people who rely on safety net programs to ensure policy changes and solutions match people’s needs.

Analyzing How States Manage Policy Changes and Funding Shifts
We investigate how states might reconfigure their social safety net programs, adopt new approaches, and absorb potential reductions in funding from federal budgets or shifting tax revenues.

Assessing Families’ Health and Well-Being
Through the new Well-Being and Basic Needs Survey, we track changes in health and well-being that could result from shifts in safety net programs. This annual survey measures people’s job quality and security, access to food and health care, optimism and confidence about the future, and family stability. We also document how families experience policy changes in their everyday lives.

Reimagining Safety Net Programs at a Time of Rapid Change
We know that the 21st century calls for a new kind of safety net. We partner with policy organizations, advocates, and other changemakers to develop an evidence base for what policies and programs could effectively help individuals and families living on the brink achieve dignity, autonomy, and economic success.