Research Report Strategies for Improving Public Benefits Access and Retention
Heather Hahn, Eleanor Pratt, Sarah Knowles
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This report presents a menu of strategies that have the potential to increase access to individual public benefit programs or a package of benefits. It focuses on Illinois, but the strategies identified are relevant throughout the country.

Why This Matters

When people struggle to make ends meet, public benefit programs have the potential to help them meet their basic needs for food, housing, health care, and cash. Yet many families and individuals do not participate in the programs that could help meet their needs and for which they are eligible.

What We Found

The range of potential solutions reflects the range of challenges to accessing public benefits. Though some fundamental solutions would require federal action, this report focuses on the numerous strategies for improving benefit access within the current federal policy context.

The strategies included in this report are geared toward state-level solutions that state governments, community organizations, civic tech companies, or other entities could implement within a state or substate area.

Strategies for improving public benefit access can involve

  • revising service delivery practices and processes,
  • changing state or local policies, or
  • using or improving technology.

Philanthropy can play a vital role in improving public benefits access by making investments that promote the sustainable implementation of these strategies. Philanthropic funding can support all the actors engaged in designing, testing, and implementing the strategies: states, community organizations, civic tech, research organizations, and community members.

How We Did It

We consulted subject matter experts and literature to identify proven and promising strategies for increasing access to public benefits. For feedback on the implications of the potential strategies in the context of Illinois, we consulted with a Public Benefits Advisory Group composed of experts and stakeholders based in Illinois. In addition, we reviewed the research literature and publicly available information on efforts to streamline and coordinate benefit delivery systems.

For related products, see our Improving Access to Public Benefits project page.

Research Areas Economic mobility and inequality Social safety net
Tags Economic well-being Families with low incomes From Safety Net to Solid Ground Foundations and philanthropy Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program  Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Supplemental nutrition - Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Welfare and safety net programs Work supports
Policy Centers Center on Labor, Human Services, and Population Income and Benefits Policy Center
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