Importance of Public Work Support Programs

Half a million jobs in Minnesota pay less than $10 an hour, a wage that puts most families at economic risk.

Even when both parents work full-time, these low-wage jobs do not provide enough resources for families to meet even the most basic of needs. In addition, low-paying jobs often don’t offer health insurance or other benefits, leaving workers to pay for goods and services that other better paying jobs would cover. Programs such as Medical Assistance, SNAP, and Energy Assistance were created to help low-wage workers meet their basic needs because there was recognition on the part of federal and state legislators that low-wage jobs do not provide enough for families to make ends meet. Tax policies that place less liability on lower income workers were enacted for similar reasons. Unlike cash assistance that is aimed at helping people with no income, work support programs were put in place to encourage workers to take low-wage jobs rather than rely on welfare or cash programs. In other words, they were created to “support” workers. Unfortunately, because these programs are administered by different agencies, have varying eligibility requirements and benefit levels, the programs often don’t work together to bring economic stability to families. The Economic Stability Indicator tool illustrates the interaction between wages, public programs and taxes on a family’s bottom line and highlights the positive or the unintended consequences of program policy.