Cliff Effect Initiative


The Cliff Effect Initiative

In 2010, the Bucks County Women’s Advocacy Coalition engaged in a conversation with State Senator Chuck McIllhinney about the difficulty the “cliff effect” poses for low-income working women and their families, especially with regard to child care. We agreed to work together on ameliorating this problem. As a result, the Coalition studied what other states* were doing to eliminate the cliff effect, and several months later presented the Senator with a research paper outlining options for the Commonwealth.

After an inconclusive meeting with the PA Department of Public Welfare, the Senator decided to introduce legislation that would both correct two TANF issues inhibiting women’ s self-sufficiency, and secondly, would call for a study by the non-partisan Legislative and Budget Finance Committee to review current state practices across agencies that actually inadvertently cause the cliff effect. You can read or download a Fact Sheet about the cliff effect here.

*Iowa, Colorado , Indiana, Ohio, Hawaii, Minnesota, Illinois, Oklahoma


Here’s How the Cliff Effect Works

A working parent who is eligible for public programs which help bridge the gap between dependency and self-sufficiency, will reach a “cliff” when a small increase in her (or his) hourly wage rate causes her to lose access to work support programs (such as housing, food stamps, Medical Assistance, and child care subsidies).This occurs because these support programs are means tested; families lose eligibility when their income increases. Not only does this reduce the overall family financial status and increase the chance of homelessness, hunger and poor health, but it results in the loss of child care making it unlikely she can continue to work at all. This defeats the personal and public objective of economic self-sufficiency.

Learn More and Join Us
Join the statewide Making Work Pay PA Coalition to help pass legislation to correct the Cliff Effect in Pennsylvania. Click here to sign up.