Financial Literacy : EarnBenefits Program, New York City

Program/Practice Name: EarnBenefits Program, New York City

Agency Name: Seedco, a 501(c)3 nonprofit based in New York, NY

Contact Information:

915 Broadway, 17th Floor
New York, NY 10010
(212) 473-0255
www.seedco.org/earnbenefits/
www.earnbenefits.org/

Type of Program/Practice: Seedco is a national nonprofit organization headquartered in New York City that advances economic opportunity for people, businesses and communities in need.

Program/Practice Description: The EarnBenefits program connects low-wage workers to a wide range of income-enhancing benefits that have a proven impact on long-term job retention and asset accumulation. Low-wage workers who make informed choices opening a checking account, thinking about the next step in a career, and accessing available benefits such as health insurance and the Earned Income Tax Credit are more likely to succeed. For example, a single mother with two children, employed as a childcare provider, typically earns about $7 an hour. She brings home a little more than $1,000 a month, below the poverty line and hundreds of dollars less than her monthly costs for housing, transportation, food, clothes, and utilities. When she has access to income-raising benefits, such as nearly $200 a month in Medicaid insurance, $200 in Food Stamps, and $100 in tax refunds, her monthly budget rises to more than $1,600. However, research and Seedco's experience have shown that too few families are aware and able to access the available opportunities. EarnBenefits was launched in 2004 to address that problem.

  • Marketing and Education — User friendly materials, including a public website,
  • Eligibility Screening and Facilitated Access — The EBO tool streamlines eligibility screening for benefits, application submission, and tracking of submitted applications. EBO stores client data, creating an efficient system to screen and provide application assistance for multiple benefits and is designed to e-file completed applications directly to local benefits administering agencies.
  • Benefits Management — Once low–wage workers access work supports, EarnBenefits helps them manage their benefits. This includes assistance with recertification and linkages to financial education and coaching. Additionally advice is given on how to continue to receive benefits and supports, such as low–cost financial services and products, as household income increases.

Innovations and Results: Seedco has successfully developed and implemented a core set of practical and technical principles that have streamlined participant registration and tracking. By developing and using its Web-based participant management information system, Seedco has created new partnerships that foster successful job recruitment and training strategies for low-income residents. Individualized case management ensures seamless and targeted service delivery to clients, while fostering productive partnerships with specialized service providers throughout the region, including health care providers, child care providers, and other key resources to reduce the challenges to client participation. This process has increased participation and success rates by matching clients to those areas that are best suited to their individual needs. Seedco has developed a one-on-one approach using its online system to screen and assign clients to the opportunities best suited to their qualifications. Moreover, the system is programmed to automatically identify and make recommendations for necessary support services that enhance the likelihood of client success.

Funding: EarnBenefits has received financial support from foundations, government agencies, and major intermediary organizations.

Staffing:Seedco staff are an integral part of the EarnBenefits program success and Seedco works diligently to recruit, train, and reward staff who are well qualified and dedicated to the goals of the organization. Staff receive intensive training and continuous learning on effective interaction skills and on the technology necessary to deliver the appropriate services. For example, counselors are trained in how to engage clients and how to deliver services. Staff are trained in effective communication, advanced computing techniques, customer service, leadership skills, problem solving, process improvement, and teamwork.

Additional Information:The Seedco program connects various social resources to improve the likelihood of client success. Seedco, an intermediary organization, relies on its partnerships with faith-based organizations, human service organizations, and other small firms and stakeholders to recruit and assign clients. Through its technology-based EarnBenefits application, Seedco provides specific services that increase employability and reduce the challenges faced by unemployed and hard to employ individuals. The EarnBenefits application is an innovative and integrated online system that matches clients with specific services and potential employers. This program dynamically screens a client for multiple supports and pre-populates application forms, from school lunch programs to financial education and training.

Tips to Implementation: Seedco is committed to improving the success of low–income clients. To that end, Seedco seeks to cultivate a well–trained workforce by identifying specific potential participants, measuring skill levels, matching clients with potential positions, and providing support services such as case management, while assessing their employability skills and providing training as appropriate. Seedco has identified several activities that increase the likelihood of success for programs of this type, including assisting clients in navigating and understanding the employment environment and the workforce system, analyzing assets and strategies that are important to the local economy, developing attractive service options and viable funding plans, cultivating productive relationships with potential employers, and negotiating strategic alliances and operational agreements.

Successes: Since start–up, EarnBenefits has connected over 100,000 households to more than 153,000 benefits valued at approximately $217 million. Currently operating in eight states, Seedco's EarnBenefits helps families bridge the gap between their wages and their needs by making it easier for them to connect to a variety of available benefits, thus promoting job stability and economic advancement.

Challenges: Seedco experienced several challenges, including information gathering as it pertained to clients and their skills and employability. Also, helping clients make a smooth transition from unemployment to full–time employment requires additional assistance and intensive case management. Using various networks demands constant review and quality assurance to make certain the data gathered are accurate and up to date. Seamless information sharing from one site to another, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and workforce development sites for example, calls for deep understanding and constant evaluation and training of staff.

Other Lessons Learned:

  • Aligning workforce development, employee outlets, educational outlets, and health care providers requires a clear understanding of the industries in the State and a common understanding of the knowledge and skills required to move to self–sufficiency.
  • Ensuring the successful assignment of potential employees requires a one–stop, seamless system between each component and the clients.
  • Offering or expanding opportunities for continuous learning and skill development is crucial to improving retention.
  • Ensuring strong social networks and partnerships that allow clients to receive educational and social services helps increase literacy skills and employability.
  • Building employability requires constant information sharing, ongoing case management, and increased access to lifelong learning opportunities.
  • Ongoing assessment and evaluation are crucial to measuring program effectiveness and providing informational markers for program and service changes.

The following tools are associated with EarnBenefits Program, New York City.  Please send us an email for more information about these tools.

EarnBenefits NYC Resource Page - EarnBenefits Online website list available programs and eligibility criteria in health, nutrition, housing, utilities, tax credits, career training, and children and family supports.

About Seedco - Seedco designs and implements innovative programs and services for workers, families, and businesses in need. We advance community economic development through workforce development, work and family supports, and community finance and small business services.

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EarnBenefits Program, Atlanta