Even though the social safety net is badly frayed, some government benefits are available to alleviate poverty’s worst effects. Too many Philadelphians do not take advantage of them.
One out of every five eligible residents is not receiving nutritional assistance under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or receiving the extra cash available to the working poor under the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). About 15 percent of adults and 5 percent of children in Philadelphia lack health insurance, even though many of them would likely qualify for public options.
When individuals and families don’t receive benefits, not only do they suffer, but the economy of Philadelphia as a whole is deprived of millions of dollars in resources.
Accessing benefits requires users to navigate a needlessly complicated and time-consuming system. Different programs require duplicated forms, different documents, and trips across town to several offices. Cultural and language barriers present another impediment.