CUSA Announces New National Partnership To Tackle Cliff Effect

Circles USA is pleased to announce our participation in the newly formed Beyond the Cliff Coalition. This Coalition is a first-of-its-kind national collaborative of nonprofits, state and local governments, and collaborative stakeholders focused on helping families achieve economic prosperity and specifically eliminating the benefits cliff. The benefits cliff describes the experience that millions of low-income families face when they increase earnings only to face an abrupt loss in public assistance which leaves them worse off financially.

For nearly a decade, Circles USA has conducted research and developed tools to better inform families and policy makers about this barrier that keeps people trapped in poverty. Board member Joan Kuriansky produced a Big View Policy Platform that provides local, national, and federal recommendations for mitigating the Cliff Effect. Several states commissioned our researchers to make recommendations: For Michigan, Circles USA produced a field scan of solutions nationwide; our New Mexico report included case studies that point to ways to resolve the Cliff Effect. CUSA has prototyped multiple planning tools to estimate the income levels that prompt the loss of benefits with the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta and Leap Fund. Recent blog posts have highlighted the labor and ingenuity of Circles chapters building community awareness around the Cliff Effect, new free resources for Cliff Effect education, and more.

Brittany Birken, Community and Economic Development Director and Principal Adviser at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta*, studies the impact of benefit cliffs on individuals and communities and served in an advisory capacity in the formation of this collaborative. She said, “Bringing together these innovative efforts to address the benefits cliff has the potential to identify the solutions needed to increase family economic mobility, meet employers’ talent needs, and ensure that the economy is working for everyone.”

  • Circles Salt Lake and Circles Central Florida, local chapters of Circles USA
  • Colorado Benefits Cliff Collaborative comprised of Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS), CrossPurpose, Innovate+Educate, Spur LLC, and TorchTech
  • Episcopal Community Services of Philadelphia
  • Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont
  • Hennepin County Office of Workforce Development
  • Onondaga County Department of Social Services
  • Springfield WORKS
  • Tennessee Alliance for Economic Mobility, an initiative of Martha O’Bryan Center in partnership with Tennessee Department of Human Services
  • Vermont Department for Children and Families
  • Workforce Development Council of Seattle King County
  • additional partners to be announced at a later date.

At Martha O’Bryan, we seek solutions to the root causes of poverty. We are very excited about leading this coalition focused on eliminating the benefits cliff. As an antipoverty organization, we believe families can rise out of poverty in one generation. We recognize that that has not been true in all places for all people. Solving this issue is an important step toward expanding the landscape of opportunity for all families.
I’m so grateful for that. 

– Marsha Edwards, CEO & President, Martha O Bryan

In addition, the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta and Economic Mobility Pathways (EMPath) will serve in an advisory capacity.

* The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta does not provide grants or funding to the general public or to partner organizations. It does not endorse or make any representations as to the suitability of partner organizations or their programs and do not advise on distribution of funds by partners.