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Graduates Testify About the Cliff Effects at Massachusetts State House

Graduates Testify About the Cliff Effects at Massachusetts State House

Watch the powerful testimonies of WMM graduates Ariela and Jami at the Massachusetts State House as they courageously share their stories and the challenges they face. Their experiences highlight the struggles faced by many women in WMM financial wellness programs and countless families impacted by the public benefit cliff.

The “Cliff effect” happens when a slight increase in wages results in a disproportionate loss of public benefits, leaving families worse off despite earning more. Ariela and Jami’s testimonies bring to light the real-life implications of this issue.

Ariela shared, “I wake up exhausted every day to get my son ready for school. Make him lunch, making sure I don’t overdo it with his food or snacks because I’m not sure if I will be able to afford any food the following week.” She went on to describe the difficult balancing act she faces: “If I try to apply to DTA for food stamps I will get a denial letter because I make ‘too much money’ but where is that money? WIC is next in line where I am going to get cut off because I make too much money but yet I am still struggling.”

At Women’s Money Matters, we are committed to addressing these challenges head-on. We proudly promote the Bridge to Prosperity Pilot Program, which aims to provide crucial support for families at risk of falling “off” the cliff. This three-year pilot program is designed to ease the transition off public assistance while securing sustainable employment for up to 100 families throughout Massachusetts. Payments made through the Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) help reduce the impact of cliff effects as workers transition out of governmental assistance programs. By testing a government solution to remove the impact of cliff effects and using data to prove that this policy incentivizes work while reducing costs to the Commonwealth, we hope to create a model for lasting change. The program also deploys a holistic 2 Generation/Whole Family model to ensure family success, incorporating career coaching, mentoring, financial education, and wellness counseling.

Ariela shared, “I wake up exhausted every day to get my son ready for school. Make him lunch, making sure I don’t overdo it with his food or snacks because I’m not sure if I will be able to afford any food the following week.” She went on to describe the difficult balancing act she faces: “If I try to apply to DTA for food stamps I will get a denial letter because I make ‘too much money’ but where is that money? WIC is next in line where I am going to get cut off because I make too much money but yet I am still struggling.”

Jami echoed these struggles, noting, “Without WIC, a small amount of food stamps, and the help of my parents, I couldn’t have provided enough food for my child.”

Ariela further highlighted the daily stress she endures, saying, “I drive my car to work and try not to do any special activities in between because who’s to say I’m going to have the $50 to fill up my gas tank? If I don’t have gas I won’t be able to get to any of my four jobs and if I can’t get to any of my four jobs where am I going to get any money from?” Despite working multiple jobs, she still struggles to make ends meet: “Right now, me having four jobs is not a walk in the park. I’m anxious that I may lose my Section 8 voucher because I’m ‘overqualified.’ But if they take my Section 8 voucher away, I will be right back in shelter but with a son this time around.”

A highlight of Jami’s testimony was her success story and the support she received from our programs: “Through Women’s Money Matters, I bought my own home, I also paid off my car loan, and my credit score is almost 800.”

Thank you for supporting our mission and standing with us as we work to address the cliff effects and promote financial empowerment for all.

Watch the video above to hear Ariela and Jami’s powerful testimonies.