Cliff Effect Pilot
Springfield WORKS is hosting MA's groundbreaking Cliff Effect Program, rethinking America's welfare programs as a tool for mobility rather than a poverty trap.
The benefits cliff harms families:
- “Working harder, but getting poorer”
- Inhibits career advancement
- Perpetuates economic instability
- Detrimental to economic growth
The Benefits Cliff is the single greatest barrier for low-income families, estimated to be impacting 22.5% of Americans (Carey, 2018).
Right now, America's welfare programs trap families in poverty through the Cliff Effect.
Wage increases create a loss in eligibility for public assistance supports like food, childcare, and housing, but not enough to afford these on their own. The result is that an increase in wages makes a family worse off than before the wage increase.
What does that look like: A worker can increase their wage by a few dollars an hour, or even 10 cents an hour, and lose so much in public benefits that their overall income decreases and they can no longer afford basic necessities.
The Cliff Effect Pilot is an innovative rethinking of welfare programs.
Springfield WORKS is hosting the innovative three-year Cliff Effect Pilot. We will work with 100 working individuals or families across Massachusetts who are receiving any form of public assistance to help them attain higher-paying jobs and careers. As participants' income increases and they lose public benefits and assistance, the program will provide supplemental cash benefits to bridge the gap. Participants will also receive one-one-one career and financial coaching to reach their goals, and connections with several participating employer partners with living wage employment opportunities. Participating agencies will also be trained in trauma-informed and responsive approaches to address the social determinants of work and build a stronger relationship of trust between staff and participant.
Our Pilot Program is supported and funded by the Massachusetts state government under the 2023 Economic Development Bill.
Details of the Pilot
Springfield WORKS hopes to enroll the first participants in early 2024. Ultimately we will support 100 residents/families, and the pilot period is three years.
In 2021, Springfield WORKS founded the Economic Pathways Coalition with the Food Bank of Western Mass and the Western Mass EDC. The group quickly grew to over 150 members, including working families, family, state, and city leaders, employers, anti-hunger advocates, philanthropic organizations, and service providers.
As wage increases result in a loss of public assistance supports (like housing, childcare, and food) but are not enough to cover those expenses, the pilot will provide cash assistance payments to bridge the gap.
Details of the Pilot
We hope to enroll the first participants in early 2024. They will be families or individuals working to improve their income, drawn from Springfield, Worcester, and Boston. There will be an emphasis on Black and Latino residents, who are disproportionately impacted by the Cliff Effect.
We are collaborating with Women's Money Matters, WCAC, and United Way of the Pioneer Valley as well as other local service agencies. All partners will receive training on trauma-informed and responsive models of care, ensuring implementation of the pilot involves best practices around social determinants of work and relationships of trust with beneficiaries.
Details of the Pilot
Participants will be families in Springfield, Worcester, and Boston working to improve their income with an emphasis on Black and Latino residents, who are disproportionately impacted by the Cliff Effect. - geographic, gender, racial, ethnicity, age representation
As wage increases result in a loss of eligibility for public assistance supports like housing, childcare, and food, the cash assistance payments will bridge the gap and prevent a decrease in families' annual income.
Key to the success of this program are one-one-one financial education and career coaching, with partnerships with employers actively looking to fill living wage employment opportunities.
Participating service agencies will be trained in trauma-informed and responsive models to adequately address the social determinants of work and build a stronger relationship with participants.
Goals of the Program
Our Cliff Effect Pilot will have long-reaching impacts for participants, for the broader regional community, and far beyond.
These smart public investments will help families successfully transition from public assistance to permanent employment that meets their financial and family needs.
Our program will systemically embed resources that build individuals social capital into the reimagined benefits program, and trauma-informed trainings embed the most effective mindset in the scalable program.
If successful, this program will be a model for permanent policy change far beyond Massachusetts. Our program demonstrates innovative ways of rethinking America's welfare programs, which currently trap families and individuals in poverty through the "Benefits Cliff."
A Unique Opportunity to Evaluate a Unique Solution
We will be evaluating and studying the impacts of the program throughout the pilot. The Massachusetts Cliff Effect Pilot could become a nationwide model for welfare programs, and we are not wasting the opportunity to document the impacts of the program.
We will measure impacts to participants in key areas of financial wellness, employment, mental health, and well-being
We will measure systemic impacts on employers and worker retention, and changes in the ways social service agencies interact with clients.
We will measure impacts to the provision of safety net benefits for future improvements to public policy across the country.