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The SSRC Library allows visitors to access materials related to self-sufficiency programs, practice and research. Visitors can view common search terms, conduct a keyword search or create a custom search using any combination of the filters at the left side of this page. To conduct a keyword search, type a term or combination of terms into the search box below, select whether you want to search the exact phrase or the words in any order, and click on the blue button to the right of the search box to view relevant results.

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  • Author: Azurdia, Gilda; Freedman, Stephen; Hamilton, Gayle; Schultz, Caroline
    Reference Type: Report
    Year: 2013

    Many people do not save enough money to help them manage sudden losses of income or sudden increases in expenditures. Faced with the need to raise cash immediately, they often resort to alternative, high-interest sources of credit, such as payday loans and credit cards, that may trap them in a costly cycle of debt. Currently, few programs help low- and moderate-income individuals save for emergencies, and studies of the effects of such unrestricted, short-term savings programs are rare. 

    What would happen if low- and moderate-income individuals were offered an incen­tive to save, coupled with a convenient opportunity to take advantage of the in­centive? To find out, the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs, Office of Financial Empowerment (OFE) developed the SaveUSA program, a tax-time matched savings program, which is being replicated in additional sites by the New York City Center for Economic Opportunity (CEO) and OFE. SaveUSA focuses on tax-time savings be­cause tax refunds, supported by the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and other credits, typically...

    Many people do not save enough money to help them manage sudden losses of income or sudden increases in expenditures. Faced with the need to raise cash immediately, they often resort to alternative, high-interest sources of credit, such as payday loans and credit cards, that may trap them in a costly cycle of debt. Currently, few programs help low- and moderate-income individuals save for emergencies, and studies of the effects of such unrestricted, short-term savings programs are rare. 

    What would happen if low- and moderate-income individuals were offered an incen­tive to save, coupled with a convenient opportunity to take advantage of the in­centive? To find out, the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs, Office of Financial Empowerment (OFE) developed the SaveUSA program, a tax-time matched savings program, which is being replicated in additional sites by the New York City Center for Economic Opportunity (CEO) and OFE. SaveUSA focuses on tax-time savings be­cause tax refunds, supported by the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and other credits, typically constitute the largest source of cash that low- and moderate-income individuals receive at any one time. SaveUSA encourages eligible tax filers to deposit a portion of their tax refund directly into a matched savings account that they can later use to pay for unexpected or emergency expenses or for any other purpose. 

    Does this strategy work? To find out, MDRC is conducting a randomized control trial to test the effects of SaveUSA on a variety of outcomes. The evaluation will show whether short-term incentivized savings can lead to longer-term savings habits, reduce material hardships, and improve the overall financial well-being of participants. If the results are positive, they will support ongoing efforts to implement similar savings incentives, such as a current policy proposal to embed a “Financial Security Credit” in the federal tax code. 

    What Is the SaveUSA Program?

    SaveUSA replicates a program called $aveNYC that was piloted in New York City between 2008 and 2011. During 2009 and 2010, $aveNYC’s primary years of operation, the program enrolled an average of 1,255 tax filers per year. Over 90 percent of those enrollees deposited tax refund dollars in their $aveNYC savings account and nearly three-quarters of enrollees (or 80 percent of depositors) maintained their deposits for about a year and received the savings match. A study of $aveNYC conducted by the Center for Community Capital at the University of North Carolina found that when they entered the program, 18 percent of $aveNYC par­ticipants had no bank account and 26 percent reported having no savings. 

    The SaveUSA program was operated during the tax seasons of 2011 through 2013. It builds on the free tax-preparation services provided by participating Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) organizations in four cities: New York City, Tulsa, Newark, and San Antonio. SaveUSA offers both single filers and couples who file jointly the opportunity to open a SaveUSA account at a local financial institution by directly deposit­ing a portion of their tax refund into a special savings account. Participants earn a matching incentive payment if they leave their savings untouched for about one year. 

    To be eligible for the SaveUSA program, tax filers must be at least 18 years old and meet certain income requirements ($50,000 or less for filers with dependents and $25,000 or less for filers without dependents). When preparing their tax returns, SaveUSA participants instruct the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or state taxing agency to deposit at least $200 from their tax refund directly into a special savings ac­count. Participants also pledge to keep a certain amount of their initial deposit, from $200 to $1,000, in the account for approximately one year. Participants who fulfill this pledge receive a 50 percent savings match, up to $500. 

    Account holders whose balances drop below their pledge amounts at any time during the follow-up year lose their eligibility for a match, even if they subsequently replace the funds. They incur no further penalty for withdrawing the funds, however. 

    During the next tax season, all account holders who have their taxes prepared at a participat­ing VITA site — those who end up qualifying for a match and those who do not — may again deposit tax refund dollars directly into their SaveUSA accounts and become eligible to receive another 50 percent match. 

    This policy brief offers early implementation findings, including recruitment and account enrollment results, from MDRC’s evaluation of SaveUSA. (author abstract)

  • Author: Wiedrich, Kasey; Griffin, Kate; Chilton, Mariana; Lehman, Gretchen
    Reference Type: Conference Paper
    Year: 2014

    Studies show that low-income families are more likely to be unbanked and “underbanked” than families with higher earnings. Lacking a bank account or depending on alternative financial services leads to significant financial barriers for low-income families that hinder economic growth and social mobility. This session will evaluate strategies that local and state human services agencies are testing to equip TANF recipients with the financial knowledge and resources they need to overcome barriers to financial security, including ACF’s Asset Initiative Partnership. Gretchen Lehman (Administration for Children and Families) will moderate this session.

    • Financial Counseling and Financial Access for the Financially Vulnerable

    Kasey Wiedrich (Corporation for Enterprise Development)

    The presentation examines financial management strategies among low-income families.  Two research studies are described: Children's HealthWatch and Witnesses to Hunger.

    • Building Economic Self-Sufficiency of TANF Clients Through Financial Education and Matched Savings

    ...

    Studies show that low-income families are more likely to be unbanked and “underbanked” than families with higher earnings. Lacking a bank account or depending on alternative financial services leads to significant financial barriers for low-income families that hinder economic growth and social mobility. This session will evaluate strategies that local and state human services agencies are testing to equip TANF recipients with the financial knowledge and resources they need to overcome barriers to financial security, including ACF’s Asset Initiative Partnership. Gretchen Lehman (Administration for Children and Families) will moderate this session.

    • Financial Counseling and Financial Access for the Financially Vulnerable

    Kasey Wiedrich (Corporation for Enterprise Development)

    The presentation examines financial management strategies among low-income families.  Two research studies are described: Children's HealthWatch and Witnesses to Hunger.

    • Building Economic Self-Sufficiency of TANF Clients Through Financial Education and Matched Savings

    Kate Griffin (Corporation for Enterprise Development)

    The presentation describes data from a financial education program for TANF recipients that provides training in budgeting and credit management.  The pilot was started in July 2013 with the Utah Department of Workforce Services.

    • Financial Management Strategies of TANF and SNAP Recipients: Lessons for Policy Makers and Administrators

    Mariana Chilton (Drexel University)

    The presentation describes a completed research project that looks at the impact of the AFCO financial counseling program for families leaving TANF and entering into a work-ready context.

    These presentations were given at the 2014 Welfare Research and Evaluation Conference (WREC).

  • Author: Deka, Devajyoti; DiPetrillo, Stephanie
    Reference Type: Report
    Year: 2012

    The primary objective of this research was to assess the “Last Mile” shuttles in New Jersey. “Last Mile” shuttles are the shuttles that provide passengers access from transit nodes such as rail stations to their destinations. In New Jersey, the term “Last Mile” shuttle is primarily used to describe shuttles that provide job access to workers from rail stations to work sites. Most, but not all, such shuttles in New Jersey are funded by the federal Job Access and Reverse Commute (JARC) program. Transportation management associations and counties are the primary providers of the services.

    This research includes analysis of both primary and secondary data. At the outset of the research, 34 “Last Mile” Shuttle routes were identified for detailed analysis. All but one of these routes were mapped using Geographic Information System, and shuttle corridors were identified using ½ mile buffers around the routes. Secondary data on land uses, jobs, socioeconomic characteristics, housing characteristics, and commuting characteristics were used to distinguish the “Last Mile” corridors...

    The primary objective of this research was to assess the “Last Mile” shuttles in New Jersey. “Last Mile” shuttles are the shuttles that provide passengers access from transit nodes such as rail stations to their destinations. In New Jersey, the term “Last Mile” shuttle is primarily used to describe shuttles that provide job access to workers from rail stations to work sites. Most, but not all, such shuttles in New Jersey are funded by the federal Job Access and Reverse Commute (JARC) program. Transportation management associations and counties are the primary providers of the services.

    This research includes analysis of both primary and secondary data. At the outset of the research, 34 “Last Mile” Shuttle routes were identified for detailed analysis. All but one of these routes were mapped using Geographic Information System, and shuttle corridors were identified using ½ mile buffers around the routes. Secondary data on land uses, jobs, socioeconomic characteristics, housing characteristics, and commuting characteristics were used to distinguish the “Last Mile” corridors from “First Mile” shuttle corridors, control corridors, and areas not served by shuttles. The comparisons showed that the “Last Mile” shuttle corridors are substantially richer than other areas in terms of jobs, especially in “blue collar” jobs, including manufacturing and warehousing. Regarding socioeconomic, housing, and commuting characteristics, the “Last Mile” shuttle corridors are similar to typical middle-class suburban areas with low population density and a high dependence on automobile for commuting.

    In addition to the analysis of secondary data for examining the characteristics of the shuttle corridors, an onboard survey was conducted on 18 shuttle routes, collecting data from 311 shuttle users. A vast majority of the respondents used shuttles for commuting purposes. The shuttle users were found to be of relatively young age, belonging to low-income and minority households. More than half of the shuttle users belonged to households without vehicles and 38% belonged to households with less than $25,000 household income. The characteristics of the passengers and the locations served by the shuttles clearly indicate that the shuttles are primarily serving population groups that are supposed to be served by JARC-funded projects. (author abstract)

  • Author: Mead, Lawrence M.
    Reference Type: Journal Article
    Year: 2012

    How might work levels among low-income men be raised, as they were for welfare mothers in the 1990s? This study expands the relevant literature on both social policy and implementation. Low-skilled men owing child support and ex-offenders returning from prison are already supposed to work but often fail to do so. The reasons include both the recent fall in unskilled wages and the confusion of men’s lives. Existing work programs in child support and criminal justice appear promising, although evaluations are limited. A survey covering most states shows that half or more already have some men’s work programs, usually on a small scale. Field research in six states suggests the political and administrative factors that shape wider implementation of these programs. Work programs should preferably be mandatory, stress work over training, and be combined with improved wage subsidies. The federal government should provide more funding and evaluations. (author abstract)

    How might work levels among low-income men be raised, as they were for welfare mothers in the 1990s? This study expands the relevant literature on both social policy and implementation. Low-skilled men owing child support and ex-offenders returning from prison are already supposed to work but often fail to do so. The reasons include both the recent fall in unskilled wages and the confusion of men’s lives. Existing work programs in child support and criminal justice appear promising, although evaluations are limited. A survey covering most states shows that half or more already have some men’s work programs, usually on a small scale. Field research in six states suggests the political and administrative factors that shape wider implementation of these programs. Work programs should preferably be mandatory, stress work over training, and be combined with improved wage subsidies. The federal government should provide more funding and evaluations. (author abstract)

  • Author: Doolittle, Fred; Lynn, Suzanne
    Reference Type: Report
    Year: 1998

    Parents’ Fair Share (PFS) research on child support enforcement has several goals. First, it seeks to provide insights into the interaction between local child support enforcement systems and noncustodial parents whose children are on welfare. The approach taken in this report is to analyze what happened when the seven sites in the PFS Demonstration sought to identify low-income, unemployed noncustodial parents appropriate for PFS and refer them to the program. The report carries this story up to the point of referral of appropriate noncustodial parents to the program. Later reports in the project will continue the story, examining the implementation of PFS’s enhanced child support enforcement for noncustodial parents referred to the program and estimating program impacts on payment of child support and other key outcomes. (author abstract)

    Parents’ Fair Share (PFS) research on child support enforcement has several goals. First, it seeks to provide insights into the interaction between local child support enforcement systems and noncustodial parents whose children are on welfare. The approach taken in this report is to analyze what happened when the seven sites in the PFS Demonstration sought to identify low-income, unemployed noncustodial parents appropriate for PFS and refer them to the program. The report carries this story up to the point of referral of appropriate noncustodial parents to the program. Later reports in the project will continue the story, examining the implementation of PFS’s enhanced child support enforcement for noncustodial parents referred to the program and estimating program impacts on payment of child support and other key outcomes. (author abstract)

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