1. What is Bridge to Benefits? Bridge to Benefits is a multi-state project by Children’s Defense Fund
Minnesota to improve the well-being of low-income families and
individuals by linking them to public work support programs and tax
credits. A core component of the project is an online screening tool designed to
help families and individuals understand if they are eligible for eight
public work support programs and two income tax credits. Work support programs and tax credits were implemented by federal and state governments to help low-income workers meet basic needs. Yet, in Minnesota, thousands of eligible families are not participating in these programs or claiming the tax credits that could provide increased economic stability for their families.
Please help us tell others about this website by downloading a Bridge to Benefits brochure in English or in Spanish.
2. What are the goals of Bridge to Benefits? The goals of CDF Minnesota’s Bridge to Benefits project are to:
Increase awareness and participation in eight public work support programs and two tax credits;
Improve economic stability and well-being of low-income families by connecting them to work support programs that help meet basic needs;
Promote healthy child development;
Help families navigate complicated public program enrollment processes;
Assist service providers by forming a “network of support” to ensure families receive the help they need;
Strengthen communities by bringing in more federal and state dollars through the increased number of families who are participating in public programs and tax credits.
3. What programs are included in Bridge to Benefits? Although there are many different types of public programs, CDF Minnesota focuses on the programs that benefit low-income, working Minnesota families. These include: Medical Assistance, MinnesotaCare/Healthy MN Contribution Program, Child Care Assistance Program, Energy Assistance, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program - SNAP (formerly Food Support), School Meal Program, Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Working Family Credit (WFC).
Click here to download a household size and income eligibilty guideline chart for MinnesotaCare,
Medical Assistance, Energy Assistance, SNAP, School Meal Program, Child Care Assistance, WIC, and Earned Income Tax Credit/Working Family Credit.
4. Why focus on these programs? Living in poverty has devastating effects on a child’s development. Research confirms that even small increases in a family’s income – as little as $372 a month over three years – can have positive impacts on children’s cognitive, social, and behavioral development. Participating in public programs puts money in the pockets of low-income families, benefiting their economic, social, and physical health. Yet, despite the benefits, many low-income families do not participate in the public work support programs. Based on recent data:
82% of eligible children were not enrolled in Child Care Assistance
70% of eligible households were not enrolled in Energy Assistance
31% of eligible Minnesotans were not enrolled in SNAP (formerly Food Support)
50% of eligible uninsured Minnesotans were not enrolled in MinnesotaCare or Medical Assistance
20% of eligible families were not enrolled in the WIC program
18% of eligible Minnesota households did not claim the Earned Income Tax Credit or Working Family Credit
28% of eligible children were not enrolled in the School Meal Program
27% of eligible children were not enrolled in WIC
5. Why don’t families take advantage of the programs for which they are eligible? There are many reasons why families fail to participate in public work support programs including lack of awareness, complicated application processes, low literacy levels, language problems, stigma and so on.
To participate in all the programs for which they may be eligible, a family may have to complete multiple applications, visit a variety of eligibility offices and try to understand an array of differing eligibility standards and requirements. CDF Minnesota’s Bridge to Benefits project tries to help families overcome these obstacles and simplify the application process to get families enrolled.
6. How can Bridge to Benefits impact communities? In addition to reaping economic benefits for individual families,
improved participation in public programs means economic benefits
for local communities. Public programs bring millions of federal
dollars into the Minnesota economy. Even with the current
participation rates, Minnesota received the following amounts in
federal dollars in 2011:
$811.4 million from the Earned Income Tax Credit
$698 million from SNAP (formerly Food
$145 million from Energy Assistance
$196 million from MinnesotaCare
$109 million from the
School Meal Program
$55 million from Child Care Assistance
$73 million from WIC
Families spend these dollars in their local communities. Local grocery stores, schools, clinics, utility companies, and child care providers benefit from having families on public work support programs. In fact, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that every $5 dollars of SNAP benefits generates $9.20 in total economic activity.
7. How can Bridge to Benefits impact families? Consider a family of five living in Minnesota in 2012; two parents, one school-aged child and two preschoolers. Both parents work full-time and earn $8.15 per hour, $.90 more than the federal minimum wage. The family income is $2,825 per month or $33,900 per year before taxes. This income calculates to 125% of the 2012 Federal Poverty Guidelines. This family is eligible for an array of public work support programs and tax credits (see below). These programs were created to help low-income workers meet basic needs - a recognition on the part of federal and state legislators that minimum wage jobs do not pay enough to cover monthly expenses. The chart below illustrates the impact that work support programs and tax credits could make for this family.
monthly cost of school breakfast and lunch for one child is $80
Care Assistance Program (CCAP)
monthly cost of unsubsidized child care in the metro area is $1,305
CCAP, parents pay a monthly co-pay of $84
Income Tax Credit & Child Tax Credit (federal)
tax owed is $195 per month
EITC and CTC refunds total $6,042
Family Credit (state)
tax owed is $18 per month
refund was $948
Assistance for 3 children; MinnesotaCare for parents
insurance: Average monthly out-of-pocket costs for insurance coverage in
Minnesota is $578 (includes premiums and co-pays for care)
premium for MinnesotaCare is $55 and children’s coverage is free
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program - SNAP (formerly Food
estimate of monthly food costs is $804
Monthly SNAP benefit is $331, monthly WIC vouchers total $167
8. How does the Bridge to Benefits project work? CDF Minnesota’s Bridge to Benefits project basically consists of two steps-- 1) screening low-income families for potential eligibility in Minnesota’s work support and tax credit programs and 2) helping families complete the application process for the programs for which they appear eligible.
Step One, Screening: Bridge to Benefits relies on an online screening tool (www.bridgetobenefits.org). By completing the screening process, which takes less than 10 minutes, a family can find out if they are potentially eligible for the seven public programs and two tax credits. The site also provides descriptions of each program, tips on how to apply, a list of verifications required for each program, downloadable applications and information on where to apply for each program. The site will also lead families to any organizations within their counties that provide one-on-one application assistance for the programs. The site is quick and simple to use and although it is available to any family to use on their own, CDF Minnesota believes the website is most effective when used as part of a community-wide program to support working families. Thus, CDF Minnesota looks to recruit community organizations that serve a large number of working families and are willing to integrate the Bridge to Benefits screening into their everyday work. The screening tool enhances the ability to provide resources to families in a one-stop approach. Potential screening organizations may be schools, job placement centers, social service agencies, housing organizations, family resource centers, family service collaboratives, WIC sites, Head Start programs, etc.
Step Two, Application Assistance: CDF Minnesota also seeks to identify local organizations that can help families complete the enrollment process for one or more of the public programs to ensure families get enrolled if they are eligible. These “application assistance” organizations provide families with the one-on-one assistance (such as completing a program application) that may be required to overcome the many obstacles that prevent families from participating in public programs. Examples of this type of organization may be a Community Action Agency that provides assistance in applying for energy assistance, a food shelf that helps families apply for food support, or a health care organization that helps families apply for Medical Assistance. CDF Minnesota has already identified a few statewide partners that will provide this type of assistance. A family that is screened at one of the screening organizations will be directly referred to one or more the application assistance organizations to help them complete the application processes. A direct referral means that a family’s contact information is forwarded – via the Bridge to Benefits website -- to the application assistance organizations, which agree to follow up with that family about starting the enrollment process. This relieves the family of the burden of contacting multiple organizations in order to receive help in applying to programs. This electronic screening and direct referral process is what elevates CDF’s Bridge to Benefits project beyond a typical resource and referral project.
9. How do organizations become involved in CDF’s Bridge to Benefits project? If your organization currently assists low-income families in finding resources or improving their economic stability, Bridge to Benefits may help meet your goals. If your organization currently assists families in completing applications for a public program, CDF Minnesota would be interested in talking to you about becoming a Bridge to Benefits partner.
For more information on Bridge to Benefits, please contact Stephanie Hogenson, Outreach Specialist, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Elaine Cunningham, Outreach Director, at email@example.com.
Click here to download a fact sheet about Bridge to Benefits and information about how to become a partner.
10. Who is the Children's Defense Fund?
The mission of the Children's Defense Fund (CDF) is to Leave No Child Behind and to ensure every child a Healthy
Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start, and a Moral Start in
life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring
families and communities.
CDF provides a strong effective voice
for all the children of America who cannot vote, lobby, or speak for
themselves. We pay particular attention to the needs of poor and
minority children and those with disabilities. CDF educates the nation
about the needs of children and encourages preventive investments
before they get sick, into trouble, drop out of school, or suffer
CDF began in 1973 and is a private, nonprofit
organization supported by foundation and corporate grants and
individual donations. We have never taken government funds. In 1985,
CDF established its St. Paul office to direct its efforts in Minnesota.