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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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  • Individual Author: Hoag, Sheila; Swinburn, Adam
    Reference Type:
    Year: 2013

    In September 2010, the Oklahoma Health Care Authority (OHCA) implemented the first realtime online enrollment system for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Oklahoma’s system functions as an online application and uses a sophisticated rules engine that provides an eligibility determination instantly. Almost three-fourths (72 percent) of applicants are eligible to use the online enrollment system to apply for Medicaid and CHIP coverage, known as SoonerCare in Oklahoma. This report summarizes findings from a case study analyzing Oklahoma’s real-time online enrollment system, conducted as part of a larger study evaluating Express Lane Eligibility (ELE) and alternative simplifications that might help identify, enroll, and retain children eligible for Medicaid and CHIP coverage. (author abstract)

    In September 2010, the Oklahoma Health Care Authority (OHCA) implemented the first realtime online enrollment system for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Oklahoma’s system functions as an online application and uses a sophisticated rules engine that provides an eligibility determination instantly. Almost three-fourths (72 percent) of applicants are eligible to use the online enrollment system to apply for Medicaid and CHIP coverage, known as SoonerCare in Oklahoma. This report summarizes findings from a case study analyzing Oklahoma’s real-time online enrollment system, conducted as part of a larger study evaluating Express Lane Eligibility (ELE) and alternative simplifications that might help identify, enroll, and retain children eligible for Medicaid and CHIP coverage. (author abstract)

  • Individual 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)

  • Individual Author: Schulman, Karen ; Matthews, Hannah ; Blank, Helen ; Ewen, Danielle
    Reference Type: Report
    Year: 2012

    Quality Rating and Improvement Systems (QRIS) — a strategy to improve families’ access to high-quality child care — assess the quality of child care programs, offer incentives and assistance to programs to improve their ratings, and give information to parents about the quality of child care. These systems are operating in a growing number of states — 22 states had statewide QRIS and four additional states had QRIS in one or more of their communities as of 2010.

    The development and implementation of QRIS is also a central component of the Race to the Top-Early Learn­ing Challenge — a federally funded competitive grant program that encourages states to strengthen their early learning systems — which will likely spur addi­tional states to establish new or expand existing QRIS. Under QRIS, child care programs receive progressively higher ratings as they meet progressively higher quality standards. States vary significantly in their approaches to QRIS, including in the number of quality levels they have, the standards they set for achieving higher quality ratings, and the...

    Quality Rating and Improvement Systems (QRIS) — a strategy to improve families’ access to high-quality child care — assess the quality of child care programs, offer incentives and assistance to programs to improve their ratings, and give information to parents about the quality of child care. These systems are operating in a growing number of states — 22 states had statewide QRIS and four additional states had QRIS in one or more of their communities as of 2010.

    The development and implementation of QRIS is also a central component of the Race to the Top-Early Learn­ing Challenge — a federally funded competitive grant program that encourages states to strengthen their early learning systems — which will likely spur addi­tional states to establish new or expand existing QRIS. Under QRIS, child care programs receive progressively higher ratings as they meet progressively higher quality standards. States vary significantly in their approaches to QRIS, including in the number of quality levels they have, the standards they set for achieving higher quality ratings, and the extent to which they provide financial and other supports to help programs improve. In most states, child care programs participate on a voluntary basis, although a few states require all regulated programs to participate. Despite these variations in their QRIS, states share a common objective of encouraging better child care options so that more families have access to high-quality child care that will support their children’s learning and development.

    Given that QRIS are used in a growing number of states and communities, it is helpful to examine the range of approaches these states and communities are taking in designing and implementing QRIS. It is also important to examine the opportunities and barriers for QRIS in achieving the goals of improving the quality of child care and increasing access to high-quality child care for families, particularly for the most vulnerable families. QRIS can be a tool for improving the quality of care accessed by low-income families who cannot afford high-quality care on their own. To gain more insight into different strategies for shaping and implementing QRIS, the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) and the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) interviewed 48 child care center directors from nine states about their experiences with QRIS. The directors offered valuable perspectives on what is working in their QRIS and how the systems could be improved. (author abstract)

  • Individual Author: Grinstein-Weiss, Michal; Sherraden, Michael; Gale, William G.; Rohe, William M.; Schreiner, Mark; Key, Clinton
    Reference Type: Journal Article
    Year: 2013

    We examine the long-term effects of a 1998-2003 randomized experiment in Tulsa, Oklahoma with Individual Development Accounts that offered low-income households 2:1 matching funds for housing down payments. Prior work shows that, among households who rented in 1998, homeownership rates increased more through 2003 in the treatment group than for controls. We show that control group renters caught up rapidly with the treatment group after the experiment ended. As of 2009, the program had an economically small and statistically insignificant effect on homeownership rates, the number of years respondents owned homes, home equity, and foreclosure activity among baseline renters. (author abstract)

    We examine the long-term effects of a 1998-2003 randomized experiment in Tulsa, Oklahoma with Individual Development Accounts that offered low-income households 2:1 matching funds for housing down payments. Prior work shows that, among households who rented in 1998, homeownership rates increased more through 2003 in the treatment group than for controls. We show that control group renters caught up rapidly with the treatment group after the experiment ended. As of 2009, the program had an economically small and statistically insignificant effect on homeownership rates, the number of years respondents owned homes, home equity, and foreclosure activity among baseline renters. (author abstract)

  • Individual Author: Edmiston, Kelly D.
    Reference Type: Report
    Year: 2013

    The worst recession in U.S. postwar history, starting in late 2007, confronted low- and moderate-income families and individuals with distinct challenges. To address the severe lack of data on the "LMI," population, the Kansas City Fed launched its LMI Survey in 2009.

    Distributed to more than 700 organizations that provide services to the LMI population, the Survey elicits a wealth of qualitative reporting. It also produces quantitative data, including several quarterly indexes that track changes in LMI financial conditions over time.

    Edmiston summarizes insights from the Survey on how the recession and anemic recovery have affected job availability for the LMI population, affordable housing, access to credit and demand for basic services. The findings are useful for policymakers seeking to promote financial success among the 30 million U.S. families classified as LMI. (author abstract)

    The worst recession in U.S. postwar history, starting in late 2007, confronted low- and moderate-income families and individuals with distinct challenges. To address the severe lack of data on the "LMI," population, the Kansas City Fed launched its LMI Survey in 2009.

    Distributed to more than 700 organizations that provide services to the LMI population, the Survey elicits a wealth of qualitative reporting. It also produces quantitative data, including several quarterly indexes that track changes in LMI financial conditions over time.

    Edmiston summarizes insights from the Survey on how the recession and anemic recovery have affected job availability for the LMI population, affordable housing, access to credit and demand for basic services. The findings are useful for policymakers seeking to promote financial success among the 30 million U.S. families classified as LMI. (author abstract)

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