The Recent Performance of Safety-Net Programs
- National Academy of Social Insurance, Washington, D.C.
The prolonged high rate of unemployment caused by the Great Recession has revealed substantial weaknesses in our nation’s social safety net. During and after the Great Recession, many families facing unemployment have relied on TANF, SNAP, SSDI, and unemployment insurance to provide income support. However, the eligibility requirements of these programs have often been too strict and the benefit levels too low to keep many families from falling into poverty. Moreover, the unemployment insurance program was not designed to bear the burden of high levels of long-term unemployment, and already four million Americans have exhausted their unemployment benefits. This problem will only worsen when the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which liberalized eligibility and strengthened benefits for unemployment insurance and SNAP, expires at the end of this year.
All of this points to an urgent need to improve the performance of the safety-net programs that serve unemployed families. Policy makers need evidence-based, nonpartisan policy recommendations for program reforms that best serve the unemployed with the limited available resources. Towards this end, the National Academy of Social Insurance will convene a group of researchers to analyze new data on programs for the unemployed and develop policy recommendations to improve these programs. The project will consist of a Data Working Group and a Policy Task Force, and will eventually expand to include a training program for unemployment researchers and a webinar to disseminate information on the unemployed.