San Francisco's Working Families Credit (WFC) program gives an unrestricted financial supplement to the city's working poor. It is modeled after the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), a federal tax benefit recognized for its effectiveness as an anti-poverty program, and its simplicity in delivery through the tax system.
A coalition of public, private, and not-for-profit entities formed the WFC development team. H&R Block (HRB) committed to the effort as its principal sponsor, providing $1 million in funding for the first two years, plus numerous in-kind donations. Particularly challenging in its first year, HRB had only \three months to introduce and launch the program, impacting nearly 20 tax offices.
HRB brought on Yvette to provide process and implementation expertise to the city. She was also appointed as the firm's on-the-ground representative, protecting the sponsor's investments and concerns with the program, and serving as the intermediary between the San Francisco-based team and HRB headquarters in Kansas City.
Yvette defined, managed and/or directly executed processes necessary to support the WFC application lifecycle: from producing, managing inventory and distributing essential materials throughout the city, to ensuring accurate completion of the applications, through collecting and tracking all applications to their arrival at the final processing center. By recognizing capacity constraints and anticipating bottlenecks, Yvette was able to develop creative solutions to fill gaps in the WFC pipeline.
Specifically in the HRB offices, the WFC enrollment process presented additional but uncompensated workload on the tax professionals. Yvette worked closely with field leaders to integrate WFC enrollment with minimal disruption to standard procedures. Yvette also conducted or facilitated small-group meetings - additional training, motivational discussions, and feedback sessions - with team members who were unwilling to embrace the program. As HRB associates became more familiar with the WFC, many were successfully recruited to support it in non-traditional, volunteer roles.
The number of WFC applications far exceeded the city's projections: Year one distributed $2.1 million to nearly 10,000 filers; Year two provided $2.3 million to about 11,540 filers. Now a permanent program in the City of San Francisco, the WFC continues to benefit qualified low-income working families with a financial supplement. The program has also expanded its utility as a platform to make low-income workers aware of other benefits in addition to the EITC: discounted transportation passes, food assistance, health coverage, job and career services.
The WFC pilot established a model for public/private partnerships and opened the door for multi-sector outreach campaigns in the city. The WFC program also promoted an increased culture of innovation. Evolving directly from the WFC pilot was the Bank on San Francisco initiative, offering free-/low-cost banking to unbanked households.