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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

SingleStop: The Google IPO event of the nonprofit world

Interesting article from Forget your opinions on welfare and macro solutions to poverty. Think about this from the side of the individual.

SingleStop's operating model is simple: With a Turbo Tax-like software and legal and financial counseling, it helps people tap into public benefits (tax credits, food stamps, child care subsidies, and health insurance) that they're eligible for but aren't using. Since 2001, a New York City pilot version of the program has connected 70,000 low-income residents to hundreds of millions of government dollars. Nationally, estimates put the figure for unclaimed assistance at $65 billion. Research from the Urban Institute indicates, strikingly, that 25 percent of the working poor receive no benefits at all, despite their eligibility, and that only 7 percent of these families access all four of the major supports (tax credits, Medicaid, food stamps, and child care subsidies). So SingleStop has lots of room to run.

When the Robin Hood launched SingleStop in 2001, the foundation found that the primary reasons the working poor failed to claim public benefits were that they either didn't know about the programs or didn't know how to apply for them. Often, applying meant visiting a series of different government offices—no easy undertaking for people working multiple jobs or with limited child care and transportation. As an antidote, SingleStop developed a quick one-stop shop at 59 sites across New York. In 15 minutes, the organization's software tools calculate a family's eligibility for a host of benefits—public assistance (TANF and other welfare-to-work initiatives), food stamps, Medicaid, housing and child care subsidies, health care, school lunch programs, heating assistance, Social Security disability, and tax credits. SingleStop counselors then provide families with tailored legal and financial advice—how to stave off eviction with new rent money or vouchers, how to consolidate debt and begin to pay it off, how to open a savings or IDA account.
Smoke 'em if you got 'em.

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