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United Way of Central Maryland Launches CLIFF Dashboard with Partners Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta and Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond

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The new tool will allow legislators and counselors to help Marylanders overcome the “benefits cliff.” 

Baltimore, MD (April 14, 2022) United Way of Central Maryland has partnered with the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta and the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond to launch its Career Ladder Identifier and Financial Forecaster (CLIFF) Dashboard to help Marylanders make informed career decisions to overcome the “benefits cliff,” a term used to describe a barrier for low-income families trying to improve their economic status. 

A benefits cliff can occur when wage or salary increases put a family above the income eligibility threshold for public assistance programs. Due to the gradual or sudden loss of these programs, increases in pay can actually worsen a family’s financial situation.  

“This new tool will help financial, career, and education coaches identify where the benefits cliff can occur, and help our community members anticipate and navigate those barriers to achieving their career and financial goals,” said Franklyn Baker, president and CEO, United Way of Central Maryland. “We anticipate using this tool both on the ground in our Neighborhood Zones, which provide critical resources and services for residents, including employment support; and in Annapolis as we help legislators understand the impact the benefits cliff has on their constituents.” 

The CLIFF dashboard will be available starting April 14, 2022, and will help financial, career, and education coaches identify where the benefits cliff can occur, and help community members anticipate and navigate those barriers to overcome a potential loss of public assistance based on their income, region, occupation, and family dynamics. This first-in-Maryland tool will help hardworking Marylanders plan for income changes as they advance along rewarding career pathways. The tool can also provide incentives for individuals to invest in themselves. 

“With the integration of ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) Report data and the numerous ways this tool can be used to help people in our region, we know that it will be an essential resource for our counselors,” Baker added. 

Better understanding of the benefits cliff can increase the workforce participation rate by helping residents enter or re-enter the workforce and achieve self-sufficiency, a goal that aligns with the Atlanta and Richmond Feds’ mission to make the economy work for everyone. 

“The Richmond Fed looks forward to supporting the United Way of Central Maryland’s use of this tool as we seek to better understand barriers to economic mobility and career advancement in our District,” said Community Development Regional Manager Peter Dolkart. 

“The Atlanta Fed is excited about this collaboration, which provides a tool that can inform decisions, reduce uncertainty, and ensure everyone has an opportunity to participate fully in our economy," said David Altig, executive vice president and director of research at the Atlanta Fed. 

The CLIFF tool is part of the Atlanta Fed's Advancing Careers for Low-Income Families initiative, which conducts research on benefits cliffs and develops tools to support community and state efforts to improve economic security for families and meet the talent needs of businesses for a healthy economy. 

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United Way of Central Maryland helps the working poor and those in poverty access basic needs like housing, healthcare, jobs, and education. The nonprofit’s programs promote equity, create opportunity, and improve the lives of our neighbors and the neighborhoods they call home. For nearly 100 years, United Way has tackled the toughest challenges in Baltimore City and Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Harford and Howard counties. Learn more at 

About the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond 

The Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond serves communities and households in Maryland, Washington, DC, Virginia, most of West Virginia, and the Carolinas. The Richmond Fed seeks to provide resources to partners in the District through community development outreach and research that address impediments to economic advancement, one of which is CLIFF, developed by the Atlanta Fed. 

About the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta 

The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta serves the Sixth Federal Reserve District, which encompasses Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and sections of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee. As part of the nation's central banking system, the Atlanta Fed participates in setting national monetary policy, supervises numerous commercial banks, and provides a variety of financial services to depository institutions and the U.S. government.