Women’s Resource Center Advocates
for “Benefits Cliff” Joint Committee
CEO Ashley Brown asked state legislators to support the creation of a bipartisan joint committee to address “benefit cliffs” that occur when a marginal increase in income results in a loss of public benefits.
(Monday, September 9, 2019; Sarasota, FL) At today’s Sarasota County Legislative Delegation meeting at the Sarasota County Commission, Women’s Resource Center CEO Ashley Brown asked state legislators to support the creation of a bipartisan joint committee to address “benefit cliffs” in order to help individuals and families achieve self-sufficiency, reduce workforce disruptions, and to decrease state social benefits costs. Social program benefit cliffs occur when a marginal increase in income results in a loss of public benefits.
“A joint committee can address the effects of eligibility cutoffs by identifying strategies that make better use of budgetary resources and comprehensively reviewing public programs,” said Brown. “Implementing benefits programs with gradual exit paths will produce positive outcomes for both service recipients and taxpayers.”
Brown explained to the legislators that, each month, more than 250 women seek counseling and training from the Women’s Resource Center. She gave examples of women who work hard to receive a college degree or training credential only to realize they can’t afford to receive a pay increase because it results in a loss of benefits with a wage that is not livable. Families, in particular, are hit hard by these cliffs. Brown explained that the current Florida benefit system does not provide for a “glide path” off funded programs as workers earn more money. This causes many people to be economically worse off once they complete a credential and/or enter higher paying jobs. It also causes high turnover and work disruption for employers as individuals quit or reduce their hours so as not to reach the “cliff.”
Brown points out that the United Way ALICE Report (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) helps illuminate the magnitude of this problem. The ALICE population represents the working poor living paycheck to paycheck. Brown explained that 38 percent of Sarasota households and 44 percent of Manatee households fall into this poverty or ALICE level, according to the latest report. With below average wages and housing, childcare, and transportation costs all continuing to rise, this working poor population has been increasing in our region.
Brown asked the legislators to create the joint committee by bringing together key stakeholders, including state university system personnel, to assess the impact of the current public benefit system and to identify policies which will allow for a gradual path out of poverty.
“This is a long-term problem that needs a long term solution,” said Brown. “Florida can serve as a national model by creating a joint committee dedicated to analyzing and improving the benefits system in a comprehensive manner in order to seek enhanced outcomes that are cost-effective for our state and communities, and for our most vulnerable populations.”
About the Women’s Resource Center
For more than 37 years, the Women’s Resource Center has been dedicated to engaging, educating, enriching and empowering women of all generations and socioeconomic levels. Today, WRC serves thousands of women and families in Manatee and Sarasota counties. Its vision is to provide unique strategies and programs that strengthen women through life’s transitions and provide balance, confidence and determination, which not only meet their immediate needs, but also provide hope for the future. To learn more, visit www.MyWRC.org.