Public Benefit Programs

Fact

According to Food & Nutrition Service 2011 data, 41.2 percent of SNAP (food stamp) recipients are in working families.

Many state and local government agencies that administer public benefits such as Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), SNAP (formerly called food stamps) or subsidized child care, have ongoing contact with families and individuals who work and also receive public benefits. Enlisting such agencies in tax credit outreach is an effective way to reach large numbers of eligible workers on a regular basis.

Organizations engaged in outreach activities aimed at boosting enrollment in specific benefit programs like Medicaid and CHIP are natural partners and can be encouraged to inform families about tax credits as well. Similarly, Tax Credit Outreach Campaigns can alert families to the opportunity to obtain other benefits that may be critical to the health and well-being of their families.

  • Work with state or county program administrators to arrange for information about tax credits for lower-wage workers to be included in regular mailings to families and individuals receiving public benefits. Include a flyer or envelope stuffer with benefit checks, WIC coupons, program renewal notices, waiting list information, rent notices in public housing, or other mailings.
  • Train eligibility workers to inform families seeking public benefits about the tax credits and free tax filing assistance. They can assure families that claiming the tax credits generally does not affect their eligibility for benefits such as SNAP, Medicaid or subsidized housing.
  • Reach out to workers who previously earned too much to qualify for the EIC or the CTC and may now be eligible. They may have been laid off or had their work hours reduced. Connect with them through unemployment offices, job training programs and government assistance programs.
  • Contact your local Workforce Investment Board, which is required to secure contracts to provide job readiness, job placement and post-employment services to TANF recipients entering the labor force. Caseworkers can ensure their clients know about the tax credits and how to claim them — an important step in making a successful transition into the workforce. Encourage local boards to require companies receiving employment services contracts to provide workers with tax credit information.
  • Include information about tax credits in electronic benefit screening programs. States and nonprofit groups have been developing electronic programs which screen families for benefits, including Medicaid, CHIP, LIHEAP (energy assistance) and WIC, and let them know they may qualify. Work with program designers to incorporate information about tax credits and free tax filing assistance. One benefit screener called  HelpEngen, (formerly RealBenefits), can be tailored to screen families for EIC eligibility and to indicate how large  a refund they may be able  to get. Visit www.helpengen.com. For questions, contact: Enrique Balaguer,  HelpEngen, (617) 275-2804 or ebalaguer@transengen.com.
  • Connect with outreach workers who promote a variety of benefit programs. Provide them with tax credit information to share when they are signing families up for health coverage, food assistance or child care.  Also, invite them to participate in tax credit outreach events and to be on hand at tax assistance sites.
Tax Credit Outreach IN ACTION

Connecticut Association for Human Services (CAHS) in Hartford partnered with eight of its 47 VITA sites to provide public benefit screening and enrollment during the 2013 tax season. Using AccessBenefits Online (formerly EarnBenefits Online), the eight partners screened clients for 12 different benefits, including the EIC, CTC, SNAP, WIC, TANF, Medicaid, energy assistance, and children’s health insurance.

As part of the intake process at the eight VITA sites, clients completed a survey that asked them to identify benefits they currently receive. If they were interested in being screened for other programs, the greeter arranged an appointment for them to return to the organization during non-VITA hours.

One site assigned a dedicated staff person to talk to clients about the screening service while they waited for their tax appointment. Another site had volunteers ask all clients at its March “Super Saturday” event if they wanted to be screened for public benefits as part of the intake process. CAHS promoted all 47 VITA sites through newspaper, TV, and radio.

CAHS also distributed flyers that included information about benefits screening and VITA services through mailings, events, nonprofits, social service providers, school notices, and email.

In 2013, CAHS’ eight partners screened and enrolled 555 individuals for public benefits during the tax season. These sites filed more than 1,875 tax returns, generating more than $3 million in federal refunds.

Contact: Lucille Sclafani, CAHS, 860-951-2212 x 230, lsclafani@cahs.org

Glad You Asked That!

Q: Many people work and also get cash assistance. Can they still claim the EIC or the CTC?

A: Yes. As long as they earn wages and meet the income and other eligibility requirements.

Q: Will getting the EIC or the CTC lower the amount of other public benefits? Could someone lose benefits altogether?

A: The EIC and the CTC are not counted as income for any program that receives federal funding. The EIC and the CTC are not counted as a resource (also called an asset) in determining eligibility for benefits for 12 months after the refund is received. Often, if the beneficiary has few or no other resources, saving part of a tax credit refund does not cause the person to exceed the resource limit for a benefit program. For more information, see the Public Benefits Fact Sheet online at www.eitcoutreach.org.