Countering the Cliff Effect

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo.–Legislative efforts to help Missourians move out of poverty are in full swing. 

Missourians on public assistance programs face a benefit cliff when they start to make more money at work. And now the Missouri house and senate want to get to the bottom of how to make a hand out a hand up.

Abrupt cut-offs in public assistance, while folks remain in need, is termed the cliff effect. Plans are in the works to use Greene and Jackson Counties as tests for a revised formula to reduce public assistance for those climbing the income ladder. The goal is to give folks a hand up as their income and lives improve.

State representative Crystal Quade (D—District 132) has championed this “hand up” legislation and had committee testimony before a budget committee members Thursday morning.

“At the end of the day, the committee seemed to really like the bill. We had a few tweaks, but I was asked several times to add additional counties to the pilot program and potentially take it statewide.”

The testimony was key, and one making a case was Drew Lewis Foundation founder and Northwest Project leader Amy Blansit.

“Our families are needing step down assistance and the cliff effect is why programming that we’ve put forth before is not effective. And so we’ve got to go upstream, look at the problems that exist and start from there with policy and legislation.”

Trent Sims, head of Springfield Victory Mission offered his perspective.

“I think people who look at the numbers are going to see that, are going to see that this is more effective legislation and they’re going to get on board.”

Getting on board means getting the house and senate to agree on the formula changes before the bill heads to Gov. Greitens’ desk.

Quade sounds optimistic.

“I’m hopeful that if it got to his desk he would sign the bill.”

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