If you have a job, you should be able to make ends meet. Seems like commonsense, but, in today’s labor market, where nearly a quarter of jobs pay low wages and offer no benefits, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

 

Work supports — programs to ensure that families can access basics, such as health care, child care, food, and housing — are supposed to fill in the gaps for families whose jobs don’t pay enough or offer adequate benefits. The Bridging the Gaps project finds that for families who get them, work supports are quite effective. However, the impact of work supports is limited because many families who could use them do not receive them. Many are ineligible for work supports because they earn too much, even though they can’t make ends meet and don’t get benefits from their employer. On top of this, many people who are eligible do not access work supports, either because they do not apply for them, or because the program is not funded to provide support for everyone who is eligible.

 

More on the research methodology >

 

The Bridging the Gaps national report, "A Picture of How Work Supports Work in Ten States," analyzes the gaps in public policies intended to support low-wage working families, and shows how policy could be designed to give all working families the opportunity to bridge the gaps between their earnings and a basic standard of living. Click here to see the press release and Powerpoint presentation.

What's New

 

June 2008: New York's Fiscal Policy Institute (FPI) released Working Families and Economic Security in New York: How Effectively Do Work Supports Bridge the Gaps?. Trudi Renwick, FPI, presented the report's findings to the governor's Economic Security Cabinet during their first regional town hall meeting in Schenectady, NY. According to the report, nearly one-in-three people in working families in New York--5.7 million New Yorkers--are unable to make ends meet, even after receiving work supports.

March 2008: Did you know there is no North Carolina county in which the average family with children can meet basic expenses for an amount less than 1.7 times the federal poverty level or 2.7 times the state's minimum wage? Get the facts on what it takes for families to bridge the gaps in Making Ends Meet on Low Wages: The 2008 North Carolina Living Income Standard by our partners at the NC Justice Center.


February 2008: According to a new report by Policy Matters Ohio, approximately 2.8 million Ohioans live in working families that do not earn enough to make ends meet. Bridging the Gaps in Ohio 2008 examines how public work supports help families get ahead, and offers policy recommendations to ensure that all working families have the opportunity to meet their basic needs.

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About the Project

Policymakers talk a great deal about “making work pay,” but we know that most low-wage workers go without employment-based health insurance and retirement plans, and often have no paid time off. The Bridging the Gaps’ project examines the extent to which public work supports fill in the gaps for workers and their families by combining data on who is eligible for work supports with data from government surveys and personal stories from workers trying to make ends meet.

 

The Bridging the Gaps project is led by the Center for Economic and Policy Research and the Center for Social Policy at the University of Massachusetts Boston, in collaboration with organizations in nine states and the District of Columbia. Our partners are based in Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, Washington, and the District of Columbia. They contributed to both the research and outreach phases of this project.


Our findings present a detailed, comparative picture of how well work supports work for families across the country. This picture is essential to understanding the potential and limitations of our current patchwork of work supports. Our economy has changed dramatically over the past thirty years. We know many families—even those with one or two workers—now go without basics, like health insurance and safe, enriching child care, but we have not established nationwide policies to change this. We already have an example of what works – the Earned Income Tax Credit. Fully-funded programs with simple applications that have been designed to support working families make a big difference for those who are employed, but not getting ahead. In the interest of hard working families and a competitive workforce, it is time for policymakers to build on what we know works to bridge the gaps between earnings and needs.