Cliff Effect


What is the Cliff Effect?

The Cliff Effect occurs when a pay raise at work triggers a disproportionate loss of government assistance. Even a small raise can “push people off the cliff” when it comes to benefits. Suddenly ineligible for subsidized food, housing, healthcare, or childcare, the family is worse off than before receiving the raise.

How is Circles USA resolving the Cliff Effect?

For seven years, Circles USA has been conducting research and developing tools to better inform families and policy makers about this barrier that too often keeps people trapped in poverty. 

Circles USA recently produced a policy platform that provides local, national, and federal recommendations for mitigating the Cliff Effect.

In previous years, Circles USA prototyped a planning tool to estimate the income levels that prompt the loss of benefits. Additionally, several states commissioned our researchers to make recommendations. For Michigan, Circles USA produced a field scan of solutions nationwide. For New Mexico, our report included case studies that point to ways to resolve the Cliff Effect.

Resources for Understanding and Addressing the Cliff Effect

Current Partnerships to Address the Cliff Effect

    • Leap Fund curates as a clearinghouse for the latest information on the subject. Plus, Leap Fund developed a calculator that helps recipients of public benefits understand whether they will hit a cliff, when it will happen, and how long it will take them to recover. Several Circles chapters are currently piloting this calculator and utilizing Leap Fund’s educational resources.
    • The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta created an online dashboard that highlights high-paying, in-demand careers and accounts for taxes, living expenses, and reductions in public benefits. Circles chapters are currently collaborating with the Atlanta Fed to create similar dashboards for numerous counties in Utah and Wisconsin, with the long-term goal of creating more dashboards in other states across the Circles network.

Know Your Community’s Wages and Cost of Living

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For more information or to get involved, contact us.