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Savings and Financial Security

State Stroke of a Pen Guide

In a weak economy, with high unemployment and shrinking services, constituents are hungry for some “good news” about what policymakers are doing to improve constituents’ economic prospects. This report provides two dozen examples of positive steps government can take to help constituents – more and more of whom are facing financial insecurity – weather a bad economy.

In developing the list of 24 “stroke-of-a-pen” policy ideas, we considered whether each policy was meaningful, moveable and manageable:

  • Is the policy meaningful? While there is often a correlation between a policy’s cost and its impact (consider, for example, the nearly $59 billion-federal Earned Income Tax Credit, which lifts roughly four million people out of poverty each year), there are many meaningful policy changes that cost little or nothing, but which can protect vulnerable families, bring federal dollars into a local community or lay the groundwork for future investment.
  • Is the policy moveable? In this climate, the “moveabilty” of a policy is determined, first and foremost, by its cost. However, we also considered other factors, including whether there was political will and interest by policymakers in the idea, whether there was limited political opposition to the policy, and the policy mechanism necessary to make the change (for example, an administrative policy change is often easier to make than a legislative one).
  • Is the policy manageable? Advocates sometimes come up with “great ideas” to solve social problems that are easier said than done. In assessing each policy, we also considered the feasibility of implementing the policy – acknowledging that feasibility will vary from state to state depending on a range of factors.

For each policy, we make the case for why the policy is meaningful. We describe the specific policy lever that a legislator or administrator can use to make the change. We also give examples of how the policy has been implemented or an overview of the number of states that have adopted the policy across the country. Each policy description ends with recommendations for where to go for additional resources.

Click here to download the full report.

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