Cliff Effect Pilot

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Together, we are building a resilient, inclusive, and equitable economy in the Greater Springfield Region.

Cliff Effect Pilot

Springfield WORKS is implementing Massachusetts’ groundbreaking Cliff Effect Pilot Program, rethinking America's safety net programs as a tool for mobility rather than a poverty trap.

Right now, America's safety net programs trap families in poverty through the Cliff Effect.

Increases in income can cause a loss in public assistance supports like food, childcare, and housing, without increasing enough to afford these on their own. The result is that families are worse off financially when they increase their hours, earn raises, or take promotions. We are testing a solution to inform future safety net policy and remove barriers to living wage work.

What does that look like? Eneida's Story

"I constantly feared that increasing my wages would result in losing my benefits that were essential to caring for my family, but I wanted to make sure I was doing everything I could to care for my son and be a role model for him.

I have learned how to be smart with my money, saving everything I could to prepare for work, saving most of my paycheck every other month in a savings account and even saving my tax return refunds at the end of each year...

However, shortly after accepting my new job and making a higher wage, I suddenly had a steep reduction in my government benefits. I lost my SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits with the DTA and was no longer receiving childcare vouchers, thus experiencing the 'Cliff Effect.'"


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An innovative rethinking of safety net programs.


Springfield WORKS is implementing the innovative three-year Cliff Effect Pilot. We will work with up to 100 residents and their families across Massachusetts who are receiving any form of public assistance to attain higher-paying jobs and careers.

As participants' income increases and the value of their safety net benefits decrease, the program will provide supplemental cash benefits to bridge the gap. Participants will also receive one-on-one career and financial coaching to reach their goals, and connections with several participating employer partners with living wage employment opportunities.

Our Cliff Effect Pilot program is supported and funded by the Massachusetts state government in the 2022 Economic Development Bill.


Cliff Effect Pilot Partners

We are collaborating with Community Based Organizations in Springfield, Worcester, and Boston to support enrollment, provide financial coaching, and referrals to social supports. We are working closely with employers to identify pathways to a living wage and training opportunities to get there. The Department of Transitional Assistance will support implementation of the pilot and cash payments. All partner organizations will receive training on trauma-informed and responsive models of care, ensuring implementation of the pilot reflects best practices to improve the social determinants of work and build trusting relationships.


Program Details

We are working to enroll the first participants in early 2024. Participants will be drawn from greater Springfield, Worcester, and Boston, with an emphasis on Black and Latino residents, who are disproportionately impacted by the cliff effect.


Cash Assistance

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 targeted cash assistance payments to bridge the gap.


One-on-One Coaching

Our community partners will provide one-on-one financial education and career navigation coaching so participants can reach the goals they set that work for their families. Coaching embeds social capital resources into families and their communities, with long-reaching benefits.

Employer Partnerships

We will partner with employers, who will provide real world connections with training and living wage employment opportunities to pilot participants. Employers will gain perspective on how the cliff effect shows up for their workforce.

Goals of the Cliff Effect Pilot

Our Cliff Effect Pilot will elevate the voices of those experiencing the cliff effect and will have long-reaching impacts for participants, the broader regional community, and far beyond. These are our key measures of success.

Direct Impact

These smart public investments will help families successfully transition off public assistance and move to permanent employment that meets their financial and family needs.

Capacity Building

Acting as a bridge to employers, workforce agencies, and training, the pilot increases participants’ social capital as a long-lasting benefit for them and their families. Trauma-informed trainings revolutionize service provision models for our partner agencies, even beyond the program.

Systems Change

If successful, this program will be a model for permanent policy change far beyond Massachusetts. Our program demonstrates innovative ways of rethinking America's public assistance 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 using our holistic measures of success. We will use what we learn to inform the future of safety net policy in Massachusetts and set an example for states across the nation.

Direct Impact

We will measure impacts to participants in key areas of financial wellness, employment, mental health, and well-being.

Capacity Building

We are tracking systemic impacts on employers and worker retention, and changes in the ways social service agencies interact with clients.

Systems Change

We will measure impacts to the provision of safety net benefits for future improvements to public policy across the country.

Passing the Cliff Effect Pilot Program: A Statewide Effort

Years of collective advocacy

Beginning in 2017, Springfield WORKS, alongside the Western Mass EDC and Food Bank of Western Mass lead the effort to pass the Cliff Effect pilot. In 2021, Springfield WORKS co-founded the Economic Pathways Coalition to build on that work. The group quickly grew to over 150 members, including working families, state and local leaders, employers, anti-hunger advocates, philanthropic organizations, and service providers.

Passing the Economic Development Bill

Thanks to these years of advocacy, in 2022 the Massachusetts legislature passed "An Act Concerning Public Assistance for Working Families and the Creation of a Pilot Program to Address the Impacts of the Cliff Effect" as part of the Economic Development bill!

The bill allocates $1 million in state funding to implement the groundbreaking three-year pilot program.

Hannah Reuter | Cliff Effect Pilot Director


As the inaugural director of the pilot, Hannah is responsible for overseeing, developing, and maintaining essential partnerships critical to the pilot's success. Working in close collaboration with community members, service providers, and employers, she leads the development and improvement of the pilot model. Additionally, she manages the program's resources and oversees its comprehensive evaluation to maximize the pilot’s impact. Hannah comes from a policy and research background, with the central throughline of improving policies and programs to reduce poverty. Most recently she was a Policy Manager at the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL North America).

Contact Hannah through our About Us page or send her an email.