Work Perks: Policies Helping Small Businesses Offer Employee Benefits

Small businesses are vital to the State of Wisconsin, but many small businesses struggle to attract and retain workers because they cannot provide access to high-quality, affordable health insurance, retirement savings plans, and paid leave. This report reviews a range of policy alternatives that can enhance the ability of small businesses to provide benefits to employees. There is no silver bullet for addressing the concerns of all small businesses in providing benefits, but there are a range of options that policymakers can explore to help small businesses in Wisconsin.

Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism: Localization in Kenya, Kosovo, and the Philippines

The Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund (GCERF) supports local initiatives in vulnerable communities around the world to help strengthen their resilience to violent extremism. This report utilizes case studies of Kenya, Kosovo, and the Philippines to analyze how each country incorporates local level actors within their respective National Action Plan (NAP) to prevent and counter violent extremism. To understand local efforts, we completed a three-step analysis. First, we performed a literature review covering both decentralization and decision space analysis. Next, we reviewed each NAP, giving a summary of the plan, its goals, and the stakeholders involved. Finally, we developed a qualitative coding schema to comprehensively assess NAPs in terms of best practices laid out by the United Nations. The analysis suggests GCERF can strengthen their local effectiveness by focusing on the following policy initiatives: promoting empowerment, supporting capacity building, and connecting with development agencies and NGO’s to improve decentralization outcomes.

Climate Change & Child Poverty in OECD Countries

Climate change has wide-ranging negative effects on public infrastructure, socio-economic and demographic inequality, and physical and mental health outcomes. Children in poverty are at highest risk of experiencing these impacts. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development requested the completion of an analysis mapping out the connection between climate change, child poverty in wealthy nations, and childhood development. We propose policy options to ameliorate potential high-risk harms to children in poverty living in OECD countries from climate change and mitigation of climate change. We also identify gaps in literature and research that should be pursued to better understand this urgent issue.

Increasing Access to Emergency Assistance Grants for Domestic Violence Survivors in Wisconsin

Emergency Assistance grants are a means-tested, one-time payment available to people experiencing a housing crisis in Wisconsin. Survivors of domestic violence have experienced declining rates of approval for Emergency Assistance since 2010 while increasingly applying for these grants. In this report for End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin, we examine the barriers that domestic violence survivors encounter when applying for Emergency Assistance. Barriers include a complex application process, difficulty accessing the necessary documentation safely, domestic violence screening practices, and insufficient training of W-2 caseworkers in domestic violence responsiveness. We provide 35 recommendations to reduce these barriers in the categories of: (1) procedures, (2) training, (3) screening, (4) financial benefits, and (5) organizational culture. We prioritize our recommendations based on potential impact to survivors of domestic violence and implementation feasibility, and we provide eight high-priority recommendations.

The Economic and Social Benefits of Affordable Housing Development: Examining the Impact of Movin’ Out in Southcentral Wisconsin

Movin’ Out, Inc. is a nonprofit affordable housing provider that has developed more than 1,100 units of affordable housing in Wisconsin, many of which are designated for people with disabilities. This report analyzes the economic and social benefits of disability-integrated affordable housing development and shows that Movin’ Out supports significant economic and social benefits. The report offers recommendations to help Movin’ Out combat regulatory barriers and community opposition to affordable housing. The report also includes best practices for community engagement and an advocacy agenda for state and local policy.

Over the Edge: An Analysis of the Implications of Benefit Cliffs Within Wisconsin Public Benefit Programs

In Wisconsin, many families working to move out of poverty and toward self-sufficiency face benefit cliffs – circumstances in which increases in income do not compensate for losses in benefits from state and federal programs. While many state agencies have studied means-tested program cliffs individually, few have looked across departments to see how these programs interact and create or temper cliff effects for Wisconsin families. This report uses eligibility and enrollment data from several public benefit programs to understand how and where cliffs emerge for households receiving support from various combinations of programs. The authors then provide recommendations regarding how to improve interdepartmental data collection and collaboration for mitigating these multi-program cliffs. Further, this report examines what other states and regions have done to combat benefit cliffs and recommends ways that the client, the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families, can leverage this information to better support low-income families.

An Implementation Analysis of LIFT Dane

Legal Interventions for Transforming (LIFT) Dane is an initiative to assist households in Dane County, Wisconsin, with civil legal barriers through a legal aid mobile application. LIFT Dane was developed through DreamUp Wisconsin, the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s implementation of The Alliance for the American Dream, a competition to pitch innovations to raise the net income of 10,000 emerging middle-class households by 10 percent. As one of the winning teams, LIFT Dane was awarded $1.1 million from Schmidt Futures. This report serves as a preliminary implementation analysis while LIFT Dane continues development of the mobile application. It examines administrative burden, a collective impact framework, implementation science best practices, and migration from paper to electronic government services. Using performance management metrics, the authors recommend tools for LIFT Dane to assess and improve performance of the application to ensure effective implementation.

Design and Implementation Considerations for a Children’s Savings Account Program in Richland County, Wisconsin

A team of partners informed by Extension Richland County plans to establish a children’s savings account (CSA) program for children born at The Richland Hospital in Richland County, Wisconsin. These programs facilitate the creation of an account that holds funds designated for a child’s post-secondary education expenses. Extension Richland County and partners have completed several planning activities for establishing their CSA program. However, some decisions have not yet been made. Therefore, Extension Richland County asked for a report that presents design and implementation considerations for a CSA program in Richland County and similar Wisconsin communities. This report documents current planning progress for the CSA program, identifies potential next steps, and offers considerations for those next steps.

Income Maintenance Program Administration Funding in Wisconsin: A Qualitative and Quantitative Assessment

Income maintenance (IM) programs such as Medicaid and FoodShare require extensive case processing and ongoing management to ensure that low-income individuals and families receive the benefits they need. The costs of supporting a large staff, providing equipment, and paying for office space can quickly add up. This report analyzes costs and funding sources of IM program administration in Wisconsin, incorporating fiscal data collection and interviews with financial managers. Main findings from this analysis include differences in financial reporting practices across the state, trends in costs and funding sources, and several challenges of IM program administration. Based on these findings, the authors recommend improved data collection, uniform financial reporting across the state, and consolidation of funding sources.