Some working families experience financial barriers to economic mobility. One significant barrier occurs when career advancement puts a family above the income eligibility threshold for public assistance programs. Due to the gradual or sudden loss of these programs, career advancement opportunities can result in the family being financially worse off (a benefits cliff) or no better off (a benefits plateau) than before the wage increase.
Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta Tools
Workers often struggle to understand the timing and magnitude of benefits loss because of the complexity of public assistance programs. Coupled with economic insecurity, this uncertainty can prevent individuals from actively seeking opportunities for career advancement. Further, individuals who do advance without knowledge of when assistance will end can find themselves in situations where their standard of living doesn't improve, or even declines.
The CLIFF suite of tools developed by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta models the interaction of public benefits, taxes, and tax credits with wage progressions. The CLIFF suite currently includes three core tools, each tailored to meet a client’s needs in different career stages.
The CLIFF Snapshot compares a client’s current financial situation to possible alternative scenarios. Counselors can help clients better understand how an increase in wages, additional hours worked, and/or participation in public assistance programs may better position them for financial stability.
The CLIFF Dashboard details the long-term financial implications of a new career. The Dashboard shows income and public assistance over a 20-year-plus horizon. The Dashboard also includes a self-sufficiency target that identifies the estimated level at which after-tax income will position a worker to cover basic expenses.
See demo versions of the CLIFF Dashboard.
The CLIFF Planner helps clients when they’re ready to map out details of a career move. With the Planner’s flexibility, counselors can work with clients to build a customized education plan, career plan, and budget. The Planner produces a much more individualized financial portrait compared to the Dashboard.
See demo versions of the CLIFF Planner.
CLIFF Guaranteed Income (GI) Dashboard
The CLIFF GI Dashboard shows the effect that receiving guaranteed income has on the receipt of public assistance. The dashboard can be used to inform prospective participants in guaranteed-income (GI) pilot programs about the possible implications of a guaranteed income on their eligibility for social safety net programs so they can make an informed decision about whether to enroll in a GI pilot. The dashboard can also help GI pilot program designers create their programs and negotiate income-disregard waivers for government assistance programs in their areas.
See demo versions of the CLIFF GI Dashboard.
Policy Rules Database (PRD) Dashboard
The Policy Rules Database (PRD) Dashboard is a simple-to-use visualization tool that shows how all existing public assistance programs and tax credits come together to support any type of family in any location in the United States.
The PRD Dashboard shows how the dollar value and composition of public assistance changes with increases in income. It can be used to identify when wage gains make a family worse off or no better off financially than they were before the wage increase. Using dropdown menus, users can select any public assistance program, location, and family type and visualize how benefits value changes with income.
Access the PRD Dashboard and read this article for an example of how to use the PRD Dashboard.
Visit the Community and Institutional Partnerships page to learn more about our tools and see how Atlanta Fed partners are using them.
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in partnering with us to use any of the CLIFF tools.