Giving Compass' Take:

• Melissa S. Kearney shares policy solutions that would provide a better social safety net for American children to facilitate long-term success. 

• How do these suggestions align with your philanthropic mission and values? What resources could you use to advance this issue? 

• Learn more about investing in children

We need a much stronger support system for low-income families. Specifically, the government should maintain and expand existing programs that are working well. It should also expand the safety net to fill in existing holes. In the US, this means expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC); maintaining the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (Snap) and Medicaid entitlement programs; dramatically expanding funding for housing and childcare assistance for low-income families; and offering more support for parents who are out of work.

The EITC subsidizes the annual earnings of low-income workers. It gives the most help to those with two or more children, and plays a pivotal role in reducing poverty rates among families with children. The EITC is favored across the political aisle because it both encourages work and reduces poverty. Two enhancements should be made: increase the credit for families with only one child and for those with married families with two earners (who see less of a benefit from the program due to the way the US tax code treats two-earner families).

Next, food assistance and public health insurance for low-income families must be protected. There is a policy movement to make Snap and Medicaid contingent upon an individual’s steady hours of work. This would be a terrible mistake. Snap provides a monthly credit to millions of qualifying low-income families that they can use to purchase nutritious food. Snap lifts nearly 5 million people out of poverty, including more than 2 million children. Medicaid provides health insurance coverage to approximately 37 million low-income children, roughly half of all children in the United States. Both Snap and Medicaid not only help families in the short term, they lay the foundations for children to do better in the long run.

Denying poor children food stamps and health insurance because their parents cannot maintain steady employment would defy the very purpose of a safety net. It would also be morally cruel and economically counterproductive. Furthermore, there is no compelling evidence showing that access to these programs is damaging employment rates.

A system of social insurance to children should also provide for safe housing. In addition to food and healthcare, children need a home – a decent, stable place to live.

Read the full article about a better social safety net by Melissa S. Kearney at Brookings.