How the Family Self-Sufficiency Standard and Elder Index Are Used
Over the past decade, policymakers, service providers, advocates, labor unions, foundations, and working families have used the Self-Sufficiency Standard and Elder Index to improve their work and the lives of low-wage workers and retired elders. They have used the Self-Sufficiency Standard and Elder Index to:
- Raise eligibility thresholds for certain public benefits
- Evaluate the impact of programs and policies
- Advocate to reform the outdated and imprecise Federal Poverty Thresholds
- Negotiate higher wages in union contracts
- Measure the return on investment in grantmaking
- Fight budget cuts to human services at the national, state and local levels
- Educate students on how much income they will need to cover their costs, and provide career counseling
- Fundraise to expand programmatic capacity
- Sacramento Employment and Training Agency (SETA), a Workforce Investment Board, expanded its eligibility criteria for intensive case management and training services to income levels close to the Self-Sufficiency Standard—allowing people earning less than $10 an hour to be eligible for services. SETA also uses the Self-Sufficiency Standard to determine which industries with good wages are growing in the Sacramento area and directs its clients and public resources toward those industries.
- The Mississippi Council on Economic Education is working with a number of Master Teachers in Economics to integrate the Self Sufficiency Standard into a public high school financial literacy curriculum throughout the state to understand self sufficiency and to identify jobs and career pathways that pay self sufficiency wages.
- Because the Elder Index provides a more accurate picture of the needs of older adults in their community than the Federal Poverty Thresholds, several Area Agencies on Aging in California use to the Elder Index in their local strategic plans, which are the focal point of all aging services in the community.
By Direct Service Providers
Counselors and case managers use the Self-Sufficiency Standard and/or Elder Index to tailor their services and evaluate the effectiveness of their programs in moving individuals and families toward economic self-sufficiency.
- Women’s Initiative for Self-Employment in San Francisco uses the Self-Sufficiency Standard to measure outcomes as clients complete their micro-enterprise training program. The Standard helps them determine whether they are meeting their mission: to build the capacity of women to overcome social and economic barriers and achieve self-sufficiency.
- The Children’s Defense Fund Southern Regional Office is integrating the Self-Sufficiency Standard into its tax assistance program by providing the tool to each tax filer as a way to educate them on what it takes to make ends meet in their community.
- ElderHelp of San Diego uses the Elder Index to determine sliding scale membership costs for their Concierge Club, a program providing comprehensive membership-based home care solutions such as personal care coordination, personal shopping, and escorted transportation.
The Insight Center and our advocacy partners use the Self-Sufficiency Standard and/or Elder Index to promote programs and policies that bolster economic stability for individuals and families of all ages.
- Western Center on Law and Poverty educates policymakers and the public about the needs of low-income households by using the Self-Sufficiency Standard to examine and contrast the impacts of budget and policy proposals.
- Mississippi Economic Policy Center uses the Self-Sufficiency Standard data to illustrate the need for targeted training programs that prepare working Mississippians for good paying jobs and workforce supports.
- Senior Community Centers uses the Elder Index to quantify to investors how their affordable housing and nutrition programs bring seniors closer to economic security.
In Legislation or Administrative Action
The Insight Center and our legislative partners use the Self-Sufficiency Standard and Elder Index to guide legislation at the federal, state, and local levels.
- Supplemental Poverty Measure : After decades of advocacy, the Census Bureau is preparing to develop a Supplemental Poverty Measure that will use new data and improved methodologies to obtain a more precise understanding of the economic well-being of American families and of how federal policies affect those living in poverty.
- Measuring American Poverty Act (S 1625), reintroduced in 2009, would have required the Census Bureau to develop and publish a method of calculating a decent living standard threshold, the amount of annual income that would allow an individual to live at a safe and decent, but modest, standard of living (like the Self-Sufficiency Standard). The Act would also have required the Census Bureau to develop a ”Modern Poverty Measure” which would largely follow the recommendations of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to improve and update the current poverty measurement.
- AB 138 (Elder Economic Planning Act) was signed into law in 2011 and requires state and local aging agencies to use the Elder Index to craft more effective programs and policies for California's aging population. AB 138 was preceded by AB 324 and AB 2114 (Beall, Liu). AB 324 passed the California State Legislature in 2009 but was vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger; it was reintroduced in 2010 as AB 2114 and passed the State Assembly.
- California Economic Security Task Force (CA Senate Bill 1084), introduced in 2010, would establish a 2-year bipartisan public/private Task Force to create an inventory of state programs aimed at reducing poverty and increasing economic security and provide a comprehensive set of politically viable and fiscally responsible policy recommendations to improve economic security among Californians, as defined by the Self-Sufficiency Standard and Elder Index.
- California Senate Joint Resolution 15, chaptered in 2004, memorialized the President and Congress to begin a process to better calculate the federal poverty level to ensure that all states receive an adequate representation of the number of families who are struggling to meet their basic needs. The resolution also called for the use of existing models to calculate poverty, including the Self-Sufficiency Standard.
- City and County of San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed Ordinance 88-09 which established a pilot program using the Elder Index for eligibility in a home and community-based long term care program.
- Los Angeles City Council Motion (File 08-1952), introduced in 2008, instructs the Community Development Department and other City departments and agencies to examine what impact updating the Federal Poverty Guidelines to the Self-Sufficiency Standard would have on City programs and services.
- The Workforce Investment Boards of Sacramento, Long Beach, Pasadena, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Contra Costa, Mendocino, San Bernardino, and Oakland have expanded their eligibility criteria for receiving intensive case management and training services to income levels close to the Self-Sufficiency Standard.
By Labor Unions
Labor unions all over the country use the Self-Sufficiency Standard to negotiate higher wages. The Self-Sufficiency Standard has helped change the frame of the debate from negotiating "what the employer can pay" to "what workers need to survive."
Increasingly, foundations are recognizing that realistic and accurate measures of economic need, such as the Self-Sufficiency Standard and Elder Index, are an effective way to assess the impact of their grant making.
- The United Way of the Bay Area and Y&H Soda Foundation are evaluating the success of their grantees by how effectively they are able to move families toward self-sufficiency, as defined by the Self-Sufficiency Standard. Both of these foundations recognize that the most effective way to design job training and direct service programs is to know the actual costs that clients are facing.
- The Women’s Fund of Mississippi revamped their grantmaking and advocacy work to focus on the overall goal of economic self-sufficiency for women, using the Self Sufficiency Standard as the underlying blueprint for these changes
- California Community Foundation used the Elder Index to demonstrate the challenges facing older adults in LA County, as the Foundation revised the strategy for its human development program area.
By Sector Workforce-Development Initiatives
Industry-specific workforce-development partnerships use the Self-Sufficiency Standard to identify high-wage occupations and career pathways, as they craft demand-driven, industry specific job training and partnerships. The result is a “win-win” partnership between the public workforce sector, local employers, and otherwise underemployed or low-wage workers in the community.
For more information on how the Self-Sufficiency Standard helps public and nonprofit agencies fulfill their missions, please refer to 'Keeping the Goal In Sight: Ideas for Using a Self-Sufficiency Index and the Online Self-Sufficiency Calculator to Help Families Move out of Poverty'.