Social program benefit “cliffs” occur when a marginal increase in income results in a loss of public benefits. Women’s Resource Center CEO Ashley Brown recently met with state legislators to ask them to implement changes to provide for a more gradual phase-out of benefits in order to help break the cycle of poverty in our community.
(Monday, January 28, 2019; Sarasota, FL) At today’s Sarasota County Legislative Delegation meeting at the Sarasota County Commission, Women’s Resource Center CEO Ashley Brown asked state legislators to put a social programs “benefits cliff” on their agendas. Social program benefit cliffs occur when a marginal increase in income results in a loss of public benefits.
“The abrupt reduction or loss of benefits can be very disruptive for families because even though household earnings increased, they usually have not increased enough for self-sufficiency,” said Brown. “This is a crucial topic for employers, who are desperate for entry-level skilled workers, and for low-income job seekers hoping to enter a career-laddering profession. The rationale for reducing the cliff effect is simple: It helps families become more economically self-sufficient. It also helps employers retain valuable workers.”
Ashley explained to the commissioners that, each month, more than 250 women seek counseling and training from the Women’s Resource Center. She gave examples of women who work hard to receive a workforce training credential only to realize they can’t afford to receive a pay increase because it results in a loss of benefits with a wage that is not livable. Families, in particular, are hit hard by these cliffs. Brown explained that the current Florida benefit system does not provide for a gradual shift off funded programs as workers earn more money. This causes many people to be economically worse off once they complete a credential and/or enter higher paying jobs. It also causes high turnover and work disruption for employers as individuals quit or reduce their hours so as not to reach the “cliff.”
In her remarks, Brown cited a report by the Florida Chamber of Commerce entitled “Less Poverty, More Prosperity: The Florida Fiscal Cliffs Report,” which states:
“Revising eligibility policies to eliminate or greatly reduce the cliff effect for social services that support children and families in poverty would incentivize efforts to increase earnings and create a pathway to economic self-sufficiency. (Source: https://www.flchamber.com/research/research-programs/less-poverty-more-prosperity-the-florida-fiscal-cliffs-report/.)
Brown points out that the United Way ALICE Report (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) also helps illuminate the magnitude of this problem. The ALICE population represents the working poor living paycheck to paycheck. Brown explained that over 33% of Sarasota households and 43% of Manatee household fall into this poverty or ALICE level, according to the last report. With below average wages and housing, childcare, transportation costs all rising in the region, this working poor population has been increasing. A new data set will be released by United Way next month.
Brown asked the legislators to implement changes to provide for a more gradual phase-out of benefits in order to help break the cycle of poverty in our community.
About the Women’s Resource Center
For more than 37 years, the Women’s Resource Center has been dedicated to engaging, educating, enriching and empowering women of all generations and socioeconomic levels. Today, WRC serves thousands of women and families in Manatee and Sarasota counties. Its vision is to provide unique strategies and programs that strengthen women through life’s transitions and provide balance, confidence and determination, which not only meet their immediate needs, but also provide hope for the future. To learn more, visit www.MyWRC.org.