July 19, 2005

By Sharon Parrott, Isaac Shapiro, and John Springer

PDF of full report

View the Series
 •Press Release
 •Overall Impacts of the Safety Net
 •The Earned Income Tax Credit
 •Supplemental Security Income
 •Food and Nutrition Assistance

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Summarized below are some of the most important research findings on the accomplishments of government programs that assist low-income families and individuals.  For more information, see the series of Center reports entitled What Have Low-Income Programs Accomplished?*


Public Benefit System

Sometimes called the “safety net,” the U.S. public assistance system includes social insurance programs such as Social Security, unemployment insurance, and Medicare as well as means-tested programs and tax credits such as food stamps, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and Medicaid.


Federal Nutrition Assistance

The Food Stamp Program helps more than 25 million low-income people afford an adequate diet.  WIC (the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children) provides nutritious foods, nutrition counseling, and health care referrals to about 8 million low-income pregnant and postpartum women, infants, and children under age five who are at nutritional risk.  The School Lunch and School Breakfast programs provide free and reduced-price meals to more than 22 million school children from low-income families. 


Health Care Programs

Medicaid provides health and long-term care to low-income families and individuals, including children, parents, the elderly, and people with disabilities.  The State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) supplements Medicaid by providing health care to children with family incomes modestly above the Medicaid limits.  The two programs serve more than 55 million Americans.


The Earned Income Tax Credit

The EITC reduces tax burdens and supplements wages for 21 million low-income working families and individuals.


Supplemental Security Income

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) assists seven million people who are age 65 or over, blind, or who have a disability and who have very low incomes and very limited resources.

End Note:

* Available at https://www.cbpp.org/pubs/accomplishments.htm