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Is the Vermont Workforce Held Back By Benefits Cliffs?

Whether they are real or perceived, might the Vermont workforce be held back by benefits cliffs, and how does that affect our larger economy?

In this virtual Legislative Breakfast, sponsored by New England Federal Credit Union, on February 14, 2022, the Chamber was joined by guest panelists Leap Fund Founder & CEO, Karen Schoellkopf and Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta Executive Vice President & Director of Research, Dr. David Altig to discuss how benefits cliffs can be addressed with business-and state-level policy changes. 

What is a benefits cliff? 

Benefits cliff is a term to describe when a person receives public benefits from the government or earns a raise, and then discovers that they make too much money to receive the benefits, yet they are not making enough money to sustain themselves and their household. Even experts and people working in the system can’t fully see how benefits and income work together across the dozens of programs and countless tax instruments. The impact is an employee being worse off for choices that should better their financial situation or employees not making those choices in fear of losing assistance. You can read more about this in the recent New York Times article.

About the expert panel: 

Dr. Altig oversees the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta’s Research Division, which includes their team of economists and Community and Economic Development function, as well as the Regional Economic Information Network. In this role, Dr. Altig manages the Bank’s research and engagement portfolio on benefits cliffs.

Karen Schoellkopf, who founded the Leap Fund during a fellowship with Blue Ridge Labs @ Robin Hood in 2018, is “creating products that empower optimism, financial and career growth, future planning, and security for working families that need it most.” The organization’s offerings include a benefits cliff coaching program that provides individualized cliff predictions, as well as tools to educate employers. Schoellkopf presented Leap Fund’s work on benefit cliffs to the United States House of Representatives Committee on Rules in 2021.

What's Next?

The Lake Champlain Chamber has for a long time sought to include benefits cliff consideration in policy discussions, and we hope to build on that work this fall and into the legislative session. LCC’s Advocacy team will look to host an informal meeting with organizations and members who have similar concerns that whether they are real or perceived, Vermont’s workforce might be held back by benefits cliffs on September 1st at 3:00 p.m. If you would like to be at the table, please email [email protected]