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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: March 20, 2020 04:18 PM
From: Senator Art Haywood
To: All Senate members
Subject: Studying the Benefits Cliff
In the near future, I will introduce a resolution directing the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee (LBFC) to study the impact of benefits cliffs on Pennsylvanians living and working in poverty.

Last year, I held a five-stop Poverty Listening Tour across the state to learn more about the obstacles facing impoverished individuals and their families, among the most challenging of which was the benefits cliff. While attempting to break out of poverty, far too many of our residents struggle to overcome the negative consequences of losing public benefits for food, housing, child care or medical care when they begin work in low pay jobs. The low-pay jobs abruptly end public benefits, leaving them stranded in low-paying jobs without critical food, child care and healthcare. They do not have sufficient income to afford the loss of child care, food assistance and other benefits in poverty pay jobs. During the tour, individuals from rural, suburban and urban areas of the state testified that the fear of being disqualified from receiving benefits is an unfortunate effect of the current system which stands as a substantial barrier to escaping the poverty box. A gradual reduction in the loss of benefits was a remedy shared by all during the tour.

In an effort to help individuals achieve self-sufficiency, we must address these unintended consequences of income thresholds that result in benefits cliffs. Many states are attempting to solve this same puzzle, but more data is necessary to develop solutions that will work in Pennsylvania. As such, I intend to direct the LBFC to study this phenomenon and its impact on residents, as well as policy recommendations, best practices and models for overcoming the cliff effect. A better understanding of this matter will go a long way toward making this state a better place for all of us.

Please join me in sponsoring this important resolution for all our constituents.

Introduced as SR344