Atlanta Fed, Economic Pathways MA Coalition Launch EPICC

For immediate release: October 14, 2021

The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta and the Economic Pathways MA Coalition announce the Economic Pathways Income Cliff Calculator (EPICC) dashboard, a statewide partnership formed to help workers advance their careers while transitioning from public benefits, which will launch October 19.

"Integration of the benefits cliff tool in EPICC will help workforce development professionals gain insight into what an actual career pathway looks like as a worker enters and elevates in a profession," said David Altig, executive vice president and director of research at the Atlanta Fed. "It can help inform decisions, reduce uncertainty, and ensure everyone has an opportunity to participate fully in our economy."

EPICC was developed by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta in coordination with the Western Massachusetts Economic Development Council, Springfield WORKS, The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, Baystate Health, Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance, and Massachusetts Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development. The EPICC tool is modeled on the Atlanta Fed's Career Ladder Identifier and Financial Forecaster.

"Cliff effects are a major barrier to economic security," said Anne Kandilis, director of Springfield WORKS. "This is a significant step where innovative tools can help Massachusetts residents achieve economic gains without fear of losing basic safety nets like food, housing, and affordable childcare. Further, these tools will help drive policy solutions that remove systemic barriers to ensure that pathways to opportunity are open and accessible to all."

EPICC can produce reports that show how the loss of public assistance intersects with local in-demand career paths. The calculator shows the financial trade-offs associated with career advancement and the net gains to the Commonwealth when workers advance. It also simulates policy and programmatic solutions.

"So many people who face food insecurity are trapped in the cycle of poverty because of the very real fear of losing housing, childcare, and SNAP benefits," said Laura Sylvester, public policy manager for the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts. "EPICC provides a powerful visual calculator for people to be able to plan for a career pathway toward self-sufficiency. We're grateful to the Atlanta Fed for their commitment to eradicating cliff effects and for their customization of this tool for our Commonwealth."

Because public assistance programs are complex, workers may struggle to understand the timing and magnitude of benefits loss. Coupled with economic insecurity, this uncertainty can prevent individuals from actively seeking career opportunities, and those who advance without knowing when assistance will end can find themselves in a situation where their standard of living doesn't improve, or even declines.

"As we transition out of the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, EPICC will help us understand how lack of coordination between state and federal benefits and inflexible earnings caps can prevent women and communities of color from being able to advance in careers," Massachusetts State Representative Patricia Duffy said. "It will also provide a powerful tool that illustrates the consequences and return on investment for different policy solutions."

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.

Contact: Monique Broughton Knight | 470-330-7276