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Alleviating Poverty through Public Benefits and Tax Credit Access

Each year Philadelphians miss out on an estimated $450 million in federal and state income-supporting benefits and $100 million in tax credits. In light of the high rate of poverty in Philadelphia, community-based organizations and the City of Philadelphia have deepened their commitment to expanding access to these vital resources.  

In 2021, The Promise launched the Family Stability Challenge (FSC) to fund creative strategies to connect individuals and families to important economic security programs and public benefits that can create stability and a path out of poverty. The Challenge funded four coalitions of trusted community-based organizations to:

  • Conduct outreach to families who are eligible for benefits they are not currently utilizing;
  • Increase access to benefits and services that stabilize families in the short-term;
  • Strengthen their partnerships and capacity to effectively make referrals within their coalition; and
  • Build the data infrastructure and capacity required to track progress and learn how to improve implementation and effectiveness.

In its first year of operations, the FSC coalitions served over 53,000 households. Those households were connected to over 58,000 benefits and services, worth upwards of $53.3 million. While we are excited about those accomplishments, we are also committed to learning how the Family Stability Challenge can be even more effective. Towards that end, we have partnered with a team at the Urban Institute to conduct a formative assessment of the Family Stability Challenge that will tell the story of Year 1 implementation from the point of view of the community-based organizations leading the work. The report is entitled, "Alleviating Poverty through Public Benefits and Tax Credit Access."

The first product of their evaluation is an evidence review that addresses key questions related to this work:

  • What role can public benefits and tax credits play in increasing financial stability and alleviating poverty?
  • What barriers do families face in accessing public benefits and tax credits?
  • What evidence do we have about service models that are similar to the Family Stability Challenge?

We are sharing this report to inform our partners and stakeholders in this work. Key findings from the report include:

  • Public benefits and tax credits have key roles to play in reducing material hardship for people with low incomes in the short term and are linked to improved long-term financial stability and other positive well-being outcomes for recipients.
  • That said, public benefits and tax credits alone are not a long-term solution to poverty. The benefits and credits available have important limitations, including limited eligibility and low benefit levels offered by many programs. Increasing access to these resources is only part of the solution to helping people move out of poverty.
  • People seeking these supports face various barriers to accessing benefits and credits, including administrative burdens like extensive paperwork and long wait times. Therefore, increasing the capacity of service providers like the Family Stability Challenge partners to facilitate access is important.
  • Models of promising cross-organizational collaboration offer Family Stability Challenge coalitions approaches to learn from moving forward to strengthen their own collaborative approaches. Evidence suggests that being intentional about partnering in ways that complement in-house capacities can lead to more useful collaboration. Setting shared goals and developing strong data-sharing practices are also promising practices.

We are pleased to share this report with our stakeholders and the broader community, as we believe there are important insights that will not only inform continuous improvement of the Family Stability Challenge but also broaden the base of support for benefits access efforts throughout Philadelphia and beyond.

This report is part of United Way's Knowledge Center. To see more reports focused on data and community learning, visit the Knowledge Center's portal

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