The Social Safety Net of the United States consists of various welfare programs that protect Americans with low-income from poverty and other related hardships. Federal welfare programs, of which there are thirteen categories, state programs, and non-profit organizations compose the Safety Net. It is estimated that the Safety Net raises over 800,000 Kentuckians over the poverty line each year and reduces the poverty rate by an astounding two-thirds.
These Social Safety Net programs are non-contributory, transfer payment programs, which means that beneficiaries receive free benefits without having to make any contributions to the programs. It is estimated that approximately 200,000 children in Kentucky are lifted over the poverty line because of the Safety Net.
Social Security is the leading program that lifts Kentuckians over the poverty line. It raises an estimated 450,000 people, the majority of them elderly, over the poverty line while reducing the poverty rate from 58% to 12%. Supplemental Security Income (SSI), which provides vital assistance to the elderly and severely disabled with low income, lifts over 100,000 people above the poverty line.
SNAP and the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which are means-based programs that determine eligibility based upon income, also considerably reduce poverty. SNAP assists over 750,000 people monthly, including 300,000 children. The EITC and Child Tax Credit raise over 150,000 out of poverty. It is estimated that 1.2 million people, including 660,000 children receive at least one of these credits.