A Bumpy Ride

Increasingly, the economic downturn is leading Americans, and Nebraskans, to access public benefits programs such as Child Care Assistance and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).  In fact, the New York Times ran a recent story about “the new poor” entitled “Millions of Unemployed Face Years without Jobs”.  The story chronicles the experiences of folks who never imagined they would need assistance.  Similarly, for many Nebraskans, the economic downturn and road towards recovery has been, and continues to be, a very bumpy ride.

Public benefits programs are intended for times such as these – for times when the nation as a whole is struggling and families and workers need support.  And, for many Nebraskans, they are providing vital assistance.  For example, Nebraska’s SNAP participation has increased over 25% in the last year.

Yet, times such as these illustrate the gaps in our programs.  Increased utilization shines a spotlight on the holes in our safety net.  Consider this chart, which illustrates the experiences of a single parent accessing public assistance programs.  This family will lose Child Care and Food Stamps/SNAP assistance far before reaching self-sufficient wages of about $14 in Lancaster County.  For many, the road to requiring assistance was difficult, and the road to moving back towards self-sufficiency will be uneven at best.

Family, Self-Sufficiency and Wages

The need for improvements to our public assistance programs is clear.  For recommendations about how, take a look at our newest report “Back to School, Back to Work”.  As a state, we can improve eligibility for child care assistance, expand participation in the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and improve the quality of our ADC program to ultimately make the road to self-sufficiency just a bit more manageable for struggling Nebraskans.

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