A large number of eligible working families in Chicago do not participate in income support programs such as Food Stamps, the Child Care Subsidy, Medicaid, and KidCare. Participation rates in Medicaid and Food Stamps have declined since TANF reauthorization in 1996 as many former TANF recipients no longer receive the benefits they had before and to which they are still entitled. Low take-up rates for income supports mean that many low-income working families in Chicago are unable to provide the basic necessities for their families. These low rates also mean that local communities and businesses are not benefiting from the expenditures made possible by participation in income support programs. The Income Support Access Project was developed in conjunction with an initiative undertaken in 2001 by the Center for Law and Human Services (CLHS) to distribute information about income support programs to low-income participants at its Tax Counseling Project sites. Building on this initiative, the Center for Impact Research (CIR) undertook research in order to identify barriers to accessing income supports and ways to improve outreach and application support. The research involved surveying over 600 low income adults at tax service sites and job training agencies about their knowledge and experience of benefits programs. CIR also interviewed caseworkers at job training agencies as well as outreach workers and project directors. The findings and recommendations have been developed in consultation with the project working group whose members represent a range of Chicago-area community agencies and advocacy organizations.
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