by Lois M. Quinn, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Employment and Training Institute, May 2001.
This report uses administrative and institutional databases to develop annual measures of the economic well-being of Milwaukee County children and summarizes data on financial supports provided children in employed families. The study provides a model for cities seeking to assess changes in family income and economic support during the national conversion to a work-based welfare system.
Half of Employed Families with Children Are Headed by Single Parents
To assess the economic security of employed Milwaukee County families, the Employment and Training Institute examined data on tax returns filed with the Wisconsin Department of Revenue by families with dependents. Income earnings include "adjusted gross income" but not government payments to families. Federal poverty guidelines were used to estimate numbers of "working poor" families.
About 54,600 Children Are in Employed Families with Earnings Below Poverty
State Department of Revenue data showed that many employed families did not earn enough to adequately support their children.
|Family Size||Poverty Guidelines||185% of Poverty|
|each additional member||+$2,820||+$5,217|
|Each year the federal government estimates the minimum income families need to live above the poverty line. These guidelines provide one measure for estimating numbers of families in need.|
Fewer Families Claiming Tax Credits for Working Families
The State of Wisconsin and the federal government offer refundable Earned Income Tax Credits to supplement the earnings of low-income employed families with children.
between $5,000 and $14,999. In 1999 most of these families were eligible for $1,777 to $5,457 in total
state and federal tax credits.
70,400 Fewer Milwaukee County Children Receive Income Support
During the 1990s Wisconsin changed its AFDC (Aid to Families with Dependent Children) program into "W-2" ("Wisconsin Works"), which requires parents of children over twelve weeks of age to find employment or participate in work activities. Income support, when provided, is subject to time limits. After that time all parents (except those caring for relatives or with SSI disabilities) are expected to support their families without income supplements. As fewer families receive income payments, access to other economic "safety nets" (including the state and federal earned income tax credits, "Wisconsin Shares" child care subsidies, food stamps, and government health insurance) becomes increasingly important. Analysis of public assistance trends is based on data from the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development and Department of Health and Family Services.
Almost 19,000 Children Receive Child Care Support
The State of Wisconsin and Milwaukee County have worked together to increase the number of families receiving support for child care while their parents work. Employed parents with earnings less than 185% of poverty and meeting the "W-2" asset standard are eligible for support, which can continue until the family reaches 200% of poverty. Parent options for care include licensed day care centers, licensed family day care homes, and certified family care.
3.7% Increase in Children Receiving Food Stamps, Many Unserved
After several years of large declines in the numbers of children served, in 1999 and 2000 the State increased its outreach programs to inform Milwaukee County families of the availability of food stamps benefits.
5.5% Increase in Children with State Medical Coverage
Wisconsin has three medical insurance programs available to children in low-income households. Medicaid (MA) is available for families who meet the eligibility qualifications which were in place for AFDC in July 1996. Healthy Start includes coverage for pregnant women and children under age 6 in families with income up to 185% of the federal poverty level and for children ages 6 through 19 in households with income up to 100% of the poverty level. The state's BadgerCare program is designed to provide health care coverage for uninsured children and parents who do not qualify for MA or Healthy Start but who have income below 185% of the poverty level. (Once enrolled, families can maintain coverage with income up to 200% of poverty with monthly premium requirements increasing with the family's income.)
This report was prepared with funding assistance from the Helen Bader Foundation. Portions of the analysis are included in the "State of Milwaukee's Children Report 2001" published by Start Smart Milwaukee. For further information, contact the Employment and Training Institute, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 161 W. Wisconsin Avenue, Suite 6000, Milwaukee, WI 53203. Phone (414) 227-3388. The neighborhood indicators reports include analysis of families in poverty and worker benefit usage in each of nine central city Milwaukee zipcode areas.
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