What is the Cliff Effect and how it affects low income households in western Massachusetts

Several western Massachusetts organizations gathered Tuesday at the State House for a briefing to bring attention to the Cliff Effect, which largely affects low income households.

The Cliff Effect happens when an individual who relies on public assistance receives a slight increase in their salary, and they get pushed over the cliff to disqualify them from those benefits. Because of this, many people make the difficult decision to not take a pay increase, or leave work in general to be able to support their family.

“In some of our gateway cities for example, nearly 35% of those cities, their population receives some kind of public benefit, so lots of folks are at risk for this, disproportionally it affects single headed households, with small children who need to afford childcare and housing and medical insurance and all these things, and it certainly disproportionately impacts Black and Latino families here in the Commonwealth,” said Hannah Reuter of Springfield WORKS.

Springfield WORKS is launching the Bridge to Prosperity Pilot which will serve as a guide for a new social safety net program. The program will provide direct cash payments to “bridge” the gap and make up for the value of lost benefits. The pilot will take place in greater Boston, greater Worcester and the greater Springfield area.

“The moment they say yes to a promotion, or they say yes to a pay raise, even though we would see that as something super positive on the career side, when you think about how, what I’m actually bringing home, it’s less than. Because sometimes instantaneously a benefit would turn off,” said Xiomara Delobato, Vice President and Chief of Staff of the Western Massachusetts Economical Development Council (EDC).

After an individual completes the pilot program, they will be eligible for a $10,000 bonus to help break the cycle of poverty. The groups on Tuesday are also asking for support of an amendment for $100,000 in the fiscal year 25 budget.