SARASOTA, FL – For many hardworking low-income families, not only do they face challenges in budgeting and making ends meet, they also must keep an eye on any social supports they receive to help provide for the family. While wage increases may seem like an occasion that should always be celebrated, they can cause a worker to go over the “benefits cliff” and earn themselves out of food, housing, tuition and other aid programs.
To help community members to get a full picture of their financial landscape and maximize available resources, Goodwill Manasota, Women’s Resource Center and CareerSource Suncoast co-sponsored a recent virtual training on the benefits cliff, led by Brittany Birken and Alex Ruder from the Atlanta Federal Reserve. The approximately 70 participants – representing nonprofits, faith-based organizations, funders, legislators and employers – learned about the role our community can continue to play in helping low-income families avoid public program benefit cliffs. They were apprised of details about recently-passed Florida legislation addressing these cliffs; heard an overview of a new tool developed by the Federal Reserve – the “CLIFF Calculator” – to help individuals with decision-making; and were apprised of structural barriers to career advancement. There was also a Q&A session with the panelists.
Goodwill representatives presented a case study about a community member they had assisted. After this woman became a Certified Nursing Assistant, her pay increase caused her to lose her SNAP benefits and her housing voucher was reduced. The financial impact was so severe that she gave up her CNA license.
“Even for those who work on these issues every day, it can be confusing to understand where the ‘cliff’ begins because it needs to be determined on a case-by-case basis and is clouded by unclear rules that vary from state to state. Due to concerns about losing benefits, many working people will make decisions that negatively impact their career advancement and finances,” said Goodwill Manasota Vice President Margie Genter. “With a better understanding of policy, and with the benefit of the CLIFF Calculator, our team members can better assist community members in making decisions that benefit them and their families.”
One of the goals of the program – beyond increased awareness of the benefits cliff and discussion of how to best assist community members – was to engage additional nonprofits in learning more about the CLIFF Calculator. Numerous area organizations have already reached out for more in-depth training.
For more about Goodwill, go to experiencegoodwill.org or call 941-355-2721.
About Goodwill Manasota
Goodwill Manasota is an industry-leading 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that changes lives through the power of work. With philanthropic donations and revenue generated by the sales of donated goods, Goodwill is able to assist people with disabilities, veterans, seniors, and those with other barriers to employment by providing jobs, job skills training, and free career services. For more information or for a listing of locations, visit experiencegoodwill.org or call 941-355-2721.