Accessing the Safety Net in the United States: Lessons from Covid-19, Looking Toward the Future

The social safety net is only effective if people can access it easily and when they need it. Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, an estimated $65 billion in safety net benefits went unused by families each year that needed them in the United States. Covid-19 and its resulting disruptions have tested the capacity of states to administer the safety net like never before. As unemployment surged to a peak of 13% in 2020, there was a big influx of Americans needing government assistance to feed their families and pay their bills. As social services offices were forced to close because of the pandemic, digital tools became even more critical in providing much needed social services to millions of Americans.

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