By Dan Heyman
West Virginia lawmakers are looking for ways to reduce the number of folks on government assistance. A new policy brief suggests a counterintuitive solution, letting families keep more savings without losing benefits.
Beadsie Woo, senior associate with the Annie E. Casey Foundation, says they found that since the recession, working families are having trouble maintaining savings. But she when states allowed families to have more assets before losing SNAP or TANF, the number of families receiving benefits actually declined over time.
“We see that those families are more self-sufficient because they have their own savings to draw on,” says Woo. “Over time, the number of people enrolled in benefits decline.” Woo says even a small amount of savings can make a huge difference, especially for the children of these families.
“There are common-sense policies that can create more opportunities for families to save, and those change the life course for their children,” she says. “Children whose families can save will do better in school and have stronger outcomes through access to opportunities.”
Woo says savings can keep families from getting stuck on the debt treadmill of high-interest payday loans. “The typical amount borrowed from a payday lender is about $500,” says Woo. “It is, in lots of ways, a very thin margin between what can keep a family from going into debt and being stable.”
The legislature is moving forward with bills that would require drug testing and set strict time limits for assistance. Critics charge these steps could actually make it harder for working families to climb out of poverty.