Connecticut’s Career Ladder Identifier and Financial Forecaster (CLIFF) was created by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta to illustrate the interaction between wages, public benefits, and tax credits in bringing (or failing to bring) families to economic stability. It also demonstrates the significant taxpayer savings that result from career advancement.
CLIFF is a project of Connecticut’s 2Gen Initiative, Connecticut’s Governor’s Workforce Council, and the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
What are the goals of CLIFF?
- Educate policymakers and legislators on how existing public benefit structures create cliffs for families and inform policy decisions that improve economic mobility.
- Assist families in understanding wage and benefits interaction so they can make informed choices when pursuing training and employment opportunities and pinpoint savings opportunities to help cushion them in their journey to self-sufficiency.
How can CLIFF be used?
CLIFF serves a wide range of purposes for numerous audiences. There are 4 distinct CLIFF tools:
- CLIFF Snapshot: Snapshot answers the question: “What is the impact on my budget if I move to a full-time job or increase my hours?” Case managers, workers, students, and their families can use CLIFF Snapshot to understand the one-time impact on their budget if their hours or wages change. Snapshot is meant for those seeking immediate financial stability through job placement.
- CLIFF Dashboard: The CLIFF Dashboard answers the question: “I want a career that builds toward self-sufficiency. What are my options?” Case managers, workers, students, and their families can use CLIFF Dashboard to model lifetime career choices for hypothetical family types. The Dashboard provides projections of income and public assistance along a career path. It compares financial tradeoffs to different careers and illustrates how long it will take to achieve economic self-sufficiency. Workforce and human service professionals, employers, and nonprofits can also use it to inform changes in practices, policies, and system alignment.
- CLIFF Planner: The CLIFF Planner answers the question: “I want a career that builds toward self-sufficiency. I also need assistance with my education plan and my budget. What are my options?” Case managers, workers, students, and their families can use the CLIFF Planner to identify the training programs that will increase their earnings and improve their pathway to self-sufficiency. Like the Dashboard, the Planner provides projections of income and public assistance along a career path. The Planner allows users to enter a customizable budget to plan for career transitions.
- CLIFF Employer Edition: The CLIFF Employer Edition allows employers to see how wage changes will affect their employees benefit eligibility. This allows employers to plan for benefits and wages that provide real advancement for their employees.
The CLIFF Dashboard allows the user to select: one of five Workforce Development Board (WDB) regions, one of eight in-demand career paths and their associated occupations, one of eight family types, and one of six public benefits packages. The CLIFF Dashboard uses the University of Washington’s Self-Sufficiency Standard for Connecticut to determine how much take-home pay is needed to pay basic bills such as rent, groceries, and child care, without public assistance. Watch a demo of the CLIFF dashboard here.
What programs are included in the CLIFF Dashboard?
- Tax Credits: Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC)
- Cash Assistance: Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
- Food: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and National School Lunch Program
- Healthcare: Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), Medicare, or Affordable Care Act (ACA) subsidy
- Utilities: Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
- Preschool: Head Start Early Childhood Program
- Child care: Child Care Development Fund Subsidies (CCDF)
- Housing: Section 8 Housing Voucher
How can I use the CLIFF Dashboard to analyze a policy proposal?
The CLIFF Dashboard can be used to analyze how policy changes in public benefit programs affect a family’s take-home pay along particular career pathways and gains (or losses) to career advancement over time. Additionally, it demonstrates how career advancement affects federal and state budgets, by increasing taxes paid and decreasing public assistance.
In summer 2021, the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta used the CLIFF Dashboard to simulate state policy changes to cash assistance, housing, child care, and tax credits. The 2Gen Initiative and Governor’s Workforce Council are exploring additional policy changes.
How do people learn to use the CLIFF Dashboard?
The 2Gen Initiative has developed a user manual for caseworkers to use with clients in a variety of workforce settings. In summer 2021, the 2Gen Initiative beta-tested use of the CLIFF tool at four sites in Connecticut, including an early childhood education center, high school, and two job centers. University of Connecticut conducted the evaluation, showing promising results, and informing a broader adoption of the tool statewide.