Work Support Centers: A Framework
In the years following welfare reform, unprecedented numbers of low-income parents moved into the workforce, though many into low-wage jobs that do not pay enough to lift their families out of poverty. Federal and state governments and public agencies have responded to the needs of low-income working families by developing job retention and advancement services, and by expanding “work support” programs such as the Earned Income Tax Credit, food stamps, and subsidized health care. Both approaches show promise for raising family income, and in turn, recent research shows that such programs can have a range of positive impacts on families and children.
However, studies have also shown that take-up rates for both job retention and advancement programs and work supports are low, and even fewer families eligible for multiple programs receive the “full package” of services and supports. As one way to increase participation in these programs, MDRC is exploring the feasibility of developing Work Support Centers — agencies whose mission is to increase low-wage workers’ access to the full range of employment, retention, and advancement services, as well as work supports. MDRC is investigating a number of potential institutional “homes” for Work Support Centers, including One-Stops, Family Resource Centers, and private employers. This framework paper outlines, in brief, MDRC’s vision, rationale, and workplan.