Bridge to Benefits
About Us
  1. What is Bridge to Benefits?
  2. Who is the Children's Defense Fund?
  3. What are the goals of Bridge to Benefits?
  4. What programs are included in Bridge to Benefits?
  5. Why focus on Bridge to Benefits?
  6. Why don’t families take advantage of the programs for which they are eligible?
  7. How does the Bridge to Benefits project work?
  8. How do organizations become involved in CDF’s Bridge to Benefits project?

1. What is Bridge to Benefits?
Bridge to Benefits is a multi-state project by Children’s Defense Fund to improve the well-being of low-income families and individuals by linking them to public work support programs and tax credits. A core component of the project is an online screening tool designed to help families and individuals understand if they are eligible for seven public work support programs and two income tax credits. Work support programs and tax credits were implemented by federal and state governments to help low-income workers meet basic needs. Yet, thousands of eligible families are not participating in these programs or claiming the tax credits that could provide increased economic stability for their families.

2. Who is the Children's Defense Fund?

The mission of the Children's Defense Fund (CDF) is to Leave No Child Behind and to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start, and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities.

CDF provides a strong effective voice for all the children of America who cannot vote, lobby, or speak for themselves. We pay particular attention to the needs of poor and minority children and those with disabilities. CDF educates the nation about the needs of children and encourages preventive investments before they get sick, into trouble, drop out of school, or suffer family breakdown.

CDF began in 1973 and is a private, nonprofit organization supported by foundation and corporate grants and individual donations. We have never taken government funds. In 1985, CDF established its St. Paul office to direct its efforts in Minnesota.

 To learn more about the Children’s Defense Fund Minnesota, visit www.cdf-mn.org. To learn more about the national Children’s Defense Fund, visit www.childrensdefense.org.

3. What are the goals of Bridge to Benefits?
The goals of CDF’s Bridge to Benefits project are to:
  • Increase awareness and participation in public work support programs and tax credits;
  • Improve economic stability and well-being of low-income families by connecting them to work support programs that help meet basic needs;
  • Promote healthy child development;
  • Help families navigate complicated public program enrollment processes;
  • Assist service providers by forming a “network of support” to ensure families receive the help they need;
  • Strengthen communities by bringing in more federal and state dollars through the increased number of families who are participating in public programs and tax credits.

4. What programs are included in Bridge to Benefits?
Although there are many different types of public programs, Bridge to Benefits focuses on programs that benefit low-income, working families. These include health care programs, child care programs, energy assistance programs, food and nutrition programs, and tax credits.

5. Why focus on Bridge to Benefits?
Living in poverty has devastating effects on a child’s development. Research confirms, however, that even small increases in a family’s income – as little as $372 per month over three years – can have positive impacts on children’s cognitive, social and behavioral development. Participating in public programs puts money in the pockets of low-income families, benefiting their economic, social, and physical health.

Yet, despite the benefits, many low-income families do not participate in the public work support programs. In Minnesota in 2005, 58% of eligible households were not enrolled in Food Support, 22% of eligible persons were not enrolled in MinnesotaCare or Medical Assistance, 76% of eligible children were not enrolled in Child Care Assistance, 70% of eligible households were not enrolled in Energy Assistance, 15% of eligible children were not enrolled in the School Meal Program and 18% of eligible households did not claim the Earned Income Tax Credit or Working Family Credit. Clearly, there is a need for outreach.

In addition to reaping economic benefits for individual families, improved participation in public programs would mean economic benefits for local communities. Public programs bring millions of federal dollars into each state. Even with the current low participation rates, Minnesota received the following amounts in federal dollars: $474 million from the EITC, $296 million from Food Support, $132 million from Child Care Assistance, $109 million from the School Meal Program and $145 million from Energy Assistance.

6. Why don’t families take advantage of the programs for which they are eligible?
There are many reasons why families fail to participate in public work support programs including lack of awareness, complicated application processes, low literacy levels, language problems, stigma and so on.

To participate in all the programs for which they may be eligible, a family may have to complete multiple applications, visit a variety of eligibility offices and try to understand an array of differing eligibility standards and requirements. CDF’s Bridge to Benefits project tries to help families overcome these obstacles and simplify the application process to get families enrolled.

7. How does the Bridge to Benefits project work?
CDF’s Bridge to Benefits project basically consists of two steps: 1) screening low-income families for potential eligibility in work support and tax credit programs and 2) helping families complete the application process for the programs for which they appear eligible.

8. How do organizations become involved in CDF’s Bridge to Benefits project?
If your organization currently assists low-income families in finding resources or improving their economic stability, Bridge to Benefits may help meet your goals.

For more information on Bridge to Benefits, please contact Stephanie Hogenson, Outreach Specialist, at 651-855-1175/hogenson@cdf-mn.org, or Elaine Cunningham, Outreach Director, at 651-855-1176/cunningham@cdf-mn.org.