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Mitigating The Benefits Cliff

The Benefits Cliff (or Cliff Effect) is a condition in which a pay increase results in a net loss of combined income and benefits.

Social benefit programs are designed in ways that disincentivize people from advancing financially.


The Benefits Cliff occurs because many public benefits instantly stop at a given income threshold. Once a participant crosses the threshold, benefits plummet to zero. There is no gradual phase-out.

For many benefits, the income thresholds are set by the Federal Poverty Guidelines. Food and Nutrition Services, for example, abruptly terminate when recipients earn more than 200% of the guidelines.

The overall goal of The ABC’s Benefits Cliff work is to shift the trajectory of families working toward economic stability by decreasing the number of families experiencing the public benefits cliff.

The ABC aims to accomplish this through support of individuals with first-hand experience of the benefits cliff’s effects, through development and support of long-term solutions identified through the Benefits Cliff Learning Groups, established in 2019.

The Benefits Cliff Committee oversees the work of the ABC in service of the Benefits Cliff Learning Groups by providing guidance, support, and by serving as connectors within the community. The Committee provides feedback and expertise when requested by Learning Groups, ensures that Learning Groups stay aligned with the goal of developing long-term solutions to decrease the number of families experiencing the public benefits cliff, and collaborates with the Advocacy Committee to educate the community on key advocacy topics.

Committee Meetings

Second Wednesday of every other month from 9-10 am

Committee Members
  • Committee Chair: Sandra Fishel-Booth, The Winston-Salem Foundation
  • Lori Fuller, Fuller Impact
  • Reni Geiger, Goodwill Industries of NWNC
  • Maegan Gomez, Community Member
  • Adam Hill, Forsyth Futures
  • Daniel Ludolf, Forsyth Futures
  • Kaisha McDermott-Carter, Community Member
  • Daniel Joyce, Legal Aid of NC
  • Sheila Padrick, Goodwill
  • Sulema Reichel, Forsyth County Department of Social Services
  • Rodd Smith, United Way of Forsyth County
  • Mia Stockton, Forsyth County Department of Social Services
  • Shenell Thompson, Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust
Contact Us
Photograph of Benefits Cliff Community Meeting, 2019

Have you experienced the loss of public benefits because of a pay increase?

Join our Community Learning Group and help find solutions for the benefits cliff in Forsyth County! The Asset Building Coalition is supporting three Learning Groups to focus on nonprofit solutions, employer solutions, and policy solutions to the Benefit Cliff, locally.

Sign up to help us create long-term solutions to reduce the negative impact of the Benefits Cliff. The commitment is to attend one monthly, in-person or virtual meeting and to participate actively.

Benefits Cliff Calculator

A Social Benefits calculator is used to help individuals better anticipate changes in social benefits such as food stamps and child-care assistance when monthly wages are changing. It provides information for various monthly wage scenarios. This free resource was produced in partnership by the Center for the Study of Economic Mobility at Winston-Salem State University and Forsyth Futures.

Benefits Cliff in Forsyth County Microsite

In 2023, ABC and Forsyth Futures collaborated to produce an informational microsite, designed to inform local stakeholders on the complex conditions around the Benefits Cliff in Forsyth County. This publication replaces an earlier version of the microsite that was initially published by Forsyth Futures in 2019. That version of the microsite is still available here

NC Child Care Subsidy Program Recipients Threatened by Benefit Cliff Complications

In 2023, ABC and Forsyth Futures collaborated to produce an a community report on the NC Child Care Subsidy program that highlights key information about the benefit cliff associated with that program. 

Report on the Early Work of the Benefits Cliff Community Learning Groups

Three learning groups were launched in November, 2019 to focus on nonprofit solutions, employer solutions, and policy solutions to the Benefits Cliff, locally. Each group met in person several times before pausing work in March, 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Groups were intentionally facilitated to center those with lived experience and foster a culture of learning and inclusion among individuals working together in new ways.

Recent Committee News


Blog posts about recent committee news and updates are coming soon!