United Way of Central Maryland has partnered with the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta and the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond to launch its Career Ladder Identifier and Financial Forecaster (CLIFF) Dashboard to help Marylanders make informed career decisions to overcome the “benefits cliff,” a term used to describe a barrier for low-income families trying to improve their economic status.
A benefits cliff can occur when wage or salary increases put a family above the income eligibility threshold for public assistance programs. Due to the gradual or sudden loss of these programs, increases in pay can actually worsen a family’s financial situation.
The CLIFF dashboard will help financial, career, and education coaches identify where the benefits cliff can occur, and help community members anticipate and navigate those barriers to overcome a potential loss of public assistance based on their income, region, occupation, and family dynamics. This first-in-Maryland tool will help hardworking Marylanders plan for income changes as they advance along rewarding career pathways. The tool can also provide incentives for individuals to invest in themselves.
Better understanding of the benefits cliff can increase the workforce participation rate by helping residents enter or re-enter the workforce and achieve self-sufficiency, a goal that aligns with the Atlanta and Richmond Feds’ mission to make the economy work for everyone.
The CLIFF tool is part of the Atlanta Fed’s Advancing Careers for Low-Income Families initiative, which conducts research on benefits cliffs and develops tools to support community and state efforts to improve economic security for families and meet the talent needs of businesses for a healthy economy.