ECS Joins Beyond the Cliff Coalition to Eliminate the Benefits Cliff

ECS is announcing our participation in the newly formed Beyond the Cliff Coalition. This Coalition is a first-of-its-kind national collaborative of nonprofits, state and local governments, and collaborative stakeholders focused on helping families achieve economic prosperity and specifically eliminating the Benefits Cliff.

The Benefits Cliff describes the experience that millions of low-income families face when they increase earnings only to face an abrupt loss in public assistance which leaves them worse off financially.

For four years, ECS’ Inclusion and Advocacy Department has been working on the Benefits Cliff issue, both systemically through advocacy activities, including raising awareness, partnerships and calls to action, and supporting program participants using a Benefits Cliff calculator software tool developed by our partner, Leap Fund.

Tap the play button below to watch our ECS Forum addressing the Benefits Cliff:


Brittany Birken, Community and Economic Development Director and Principal Adviser at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta*, studies the impact of benefit cliffs on individuals and communities and served in an advisory capacity in the formation of this collaborative.

She said, “Bringing together these innovative efforts to address the benefits cliff has the potential to identify the solutions needed to increase family economic mobility, meet employers’ talent needs, and ensure that the economy is working for everyone.”

The Coalition is being led by Martha O’Bryan Center with funding support from Kresge Foundation. In addition to ECS, inaugural members of the Coalition include:

  • Circles Salt Lake and Circles Central Florida, local chapters of Circles USA
  • Colorado Benefits Cliff Collaborative comprised of Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS), CrossPurpose, Innovate+Educate, Spur LLC, and TorchTech
  • Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont
  • Hennepin County Office of Workforce Development
  • Onondaga County Department of Social Services
  • Springfield WORKS
  • Tennessee Alliance for Economic Mobility, an initiative of Martha O’Bryan Center in partnership with Tennessee Department of Human Services
  • Vermont Department for Children and Families
  • Workforce Development Council of Seattle King County

In addition, the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta and Economic Mobility Pathways (EMPath) will serve in an advisory capacity.

The Philadelphia Tribune recently published an article on legislation introduced by State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta to commission a study to on how to address the Benefits Cliff:

The Democrat-controlled House voted to raise the state’s minimum wage last year. If Republicans in the Senate agree to raise the $7.25 an hour currently paid, which Kenyatta called “shameful,” that could put thousands of households into a “gray zone” where the new income does not completely replace the value of the lost benefits.

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Photo: Pennsylvania Capital-Star

Policy should not punish promotion. 

"We didn’t want people to turn down promotions and raises," ECS Senior Director of Advocacy Caroline Dunleavy said. "We wanted to help them navigate this dynamic."

The Brook J. Lenfest Foundation awarded ECS a grant of $25,000 to support ECS’ Benefits Cliff Initiative. It encompasses advocacy, education, coaching, and direct financial assistance.

This work could not be more important, and ECS is proud to be a leader in raising awareness and advocating for public policy solutions that can help families thrive as they make upward financial progress.