HELP-Link: Successfully Connecting People with Work

Montana’s expansion of Medicaid, the Health and Economic Livelihood Partnership (HELP) Act, has had many economic, health, and employment benefits for the state and its participants. Of the more than 95,000 enrollees, 65,000 have accessed preventative health care services, such as cancer screenings, colonoscopies, diabetes screenings, and preventative dental services. Medicaid expansion has saved the state $58 million in budget savings and has brought in $47 million in new tax revenue.

One of the other major successes of Medicaid expansion has been the HELP-Link program, helping thousands of Montanans access job training to help secure employment (or greater employment). Since the creation of HELP-Link, Montana has seen increased workforce participation among Montanans with low-incomes.

To date, the HELP-Link program has connected 25,244 people enrolled in Medicaid to Department of Labor and Industry (DLI) employment services. HELP-Link provides intensive one-on-one support that has helped over 3,000 Montanans receive employment training services.

Unlike costly reporting requirements proposed in other states, which just monitor the hours of people who are already working, HELP-Link has invested in programs geared toward those that need workforce training and assistance. These services include job seeker workshops, assistance for training in high-demand sectors, credit history counseling, and on-the-job-training programs. The program also connects people to other services such as home health aides, childcare, and housing. By addressing actual barriers to work, HELP-Link has been effective at raising employment as well as earnings.

HELP-Link has worked. Of the 3,150 Medicaid clients that completed the DLI workforce training programs in 2016, 70 percent were employed after finishing their training. Over half of those employed had higher wages after completing the program, with an $8,057 wage gain over the previous year.

Medicaid expansion and the HELP-Link program may have raised employment rates among Montanan’s with low-income, according to the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of Montana. Montanans with disabilities living below poverty experienced a 6 percent increase in labor force participation between 2015 and 2016. For Montanans without disabilities, there was a 9 percent increase. Other states did not see similar employment gains during the same period, nor did Montana see similar employment gains among those with higher income levels.

HELP Link has worked, and policymakers would be wise to consider ways to bolster –  not jeopardize – the successes we have seen with this innovative program.

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