A virtual convening to address the benefits cliff in New York State and City.
The benefits cliff presents a serious barrier to economic security for low-income people and families. For two days in August, FPWA invited policy leaders, legal experts, human service providers, and those with lived experience as benefits recipients to investigate opportunities for ending the benefits cliff in New York City and State. The collaboration will lead to actionable recommendations to eliminate the benefits cliffs that can impede progress towards true economic well-being.
Although benefits cliffs are typically examined in relation to rising wages, the issue is multifaceted and equally urgent in times of economic insecurity and record unemployment levels. While an analysis of the benefits cliffs in New York State and City is forthcoming, we believe they grew following the legislative victory increasing the statewide minimum wage to $15, and will continue to grow as an unprecedented number of people need to access social safety net benefits due to COVID-19. As the pandemic recedes, our economic recovery is predicted to be a long road, and many will struggle through a safety net system riddled with administrative barriers, punitive regulations, and benefits cliffs. Millions will be seeking employment, yet, reentering the workforce at the higher minimum wage of $15/hour may trigger benefits cliffs for many, and immediately threaten their recovery rather than sustain it.
Addressing benefits cliffs in all economic realities presents a complex problem, as these benefits flow through a maze of federal, state and local funding streams, and many are interconnected. The complexity of these overlapping benefits systems requires a targeted, cross disciplinary approach. Our goal for the Ending the Benefits Cliff Virtual Symposium is to gather experts to contextualize, brainstorm, and vet recommendations in several areas of focus including: eligibility requirements, tax credits, asset building and development, the role of employers, and public education regarding the impact of life and work changes on benefits and net income.
These recommendations will ultimately be modeled to show their impact in minimizing the cliffs across New York State and City, and outlined in a report to be released in early 2021. A campaign to advance these recommendations will follow.
August 18, 2020, 9:00 AM – 11 AM EST
Purpose: To develop a shared understanding of benefits cliffs and how they may manifest in New York, and share goals for the outcomes of the symposium.
August 19, 2020, 9:00 AM – 12 PM EST
Purpose: To gather feedback from symposium participants about recommendations to address benefits cliffs in New York State and City, and facilitate discussions in four focus areas about new and existing proposals, barriers, and avenues of further research.
As part of the Ending the Benefits Cliff Symposium, we will be hosting four separate, simultaneous breakout sessions on Day 2 to begin building a roadmap of policy recommendations in four key areas: Asset Building and Development, Eligibility for Benefits and Tax Credits, Public Education, and the Role of Employers. FPWA identified these areas for policy recommendations as the most salient with the assistance of our Benefits Cliff Advisory Committee.
Descriptions of each focus area are listed below to help participants select first and second choice breakout discussions. In choosing up to two breakout sessions, participants should consider the areas in which they have substantial knowledge or expertise, or where they have been recently involved. After registering, participants will be able to select their preferred breakout session.
Asset Building and Development: This group will consider how benefits programs prohibit, limit, or otherwise discourage benefits recipients in building assets, how these barriers worsen or interact with benefits cliffs, and how these issues might be remedied. Programs that incentivize/support moving individuals and families towards economic stability, such as cash savings, a vehicle, a home, stocks or bonds, etc., will also be explored in this bucket.
Eligibility for Benefits and Tax Credits: This group will consider eligibility criteria for various benefits (such as SNAP, TANF, etc.) and tax credits (such as the Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, and Child and Dependent Care Credit) based on income and their effect on the benefits cliff. Recommendations that change or expand such criteria in order to lessen the benefits cliff will be discussed in this area.
Public Education: This group will consider how to ensure a consistent understanding about what benefits cliffs are, where they most regularly occur for New Yorkers, and the extent of their harm across benefits recipients and their communities. This group will also discuss how tools (such as calculators for cliffs and self-sufficiency, and popular education curricula) could aid in addressing a perception or fear of benefits cliffs.
The Role of Employers: This group will consider the role of employers and how they can be instrumental in helping employees and their families overcome the benefits cliff. Recommendations in this area will explore incentives, regulations, and workforce development programming, as well as any other recommendations that tie employers to policies that tackle the benefits cliff.
Elizabeth Lower-Basch, Director of Income and Work Supports – Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP)
Ashley Burnside, Policy Analyst – Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP)
Jennifer March, Executive Director – Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York
Raysa Segura Rodriguez, Associate Executive Director for Policy & Advocacy – Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York
Debipriya Chaterjee, Senior Policy Analyst for Income Inequality – Community Service Society of New York
Divya Sundaram, Policy & Civic Engagement Coordinator – Community Voices Heard
Eden Forsythe, Vice President for Policy and Government Affairs – Empire Justice Center
Merble Reagon, Executive Director — Women’s Center for Education and Career Advancement