DC Pilot Program Addresses the ‘Benefits Cliff’

The Career Mobility Action Plan offers up to $10,000 to eligible families plus support for up to five years after they exceed the technical thresholds of poverty defined by the program’s policies.

To eliminate the “benefits cliff”, Career MAP offers support for up to five years after families exceed the technical thresholds of poverty

After revealing the latest census numbers last April, Washington, D.C.’s Mayor Muriel Bowser is taking steps to help the city’s 4,410 homeless persons. By addressing the “benefits cliff” — a situation describing when a person prematurely loses their benefits due to earning an income that does not allow them to fully cover basic expenses and, at the same time, makes them ineligible for social assistance — Mayor Boswer is tackling one of the city’s most pressing issues.

Americans in this situation remain in a cycle of getting in and out of homelessness with some even avoiding getting jobs, on purpose, just to avoid losing support. It represents a failure in the design of many social assistance programs. The Office of the Mayor said that the program can help families get out of the “benefits cliff.” To prevent this, families in the Career Career Mobility Action Plan (Career MAP) program who are at risk of facing this “cliff” will receive assistance for up to five years after they officially exceed the technical thresholds of homelessness and poverty defined by the program’s policies.

“For many District residents working hard to achieve their career, economic and family goals, the sudden and often unexpected shift in public benefits can adversely impact their households,” Laura Green Zeilinger, Director of the DC Department of Human Services, said in a press release. “Through the Career MAP program the District will remove barriers to economic mobility and support families to achieve their career goals.”

Around $11.7 million in federal funding was initially earmarked for the program which was estimated to cover assistance for 300 families. However, the budget was expanded by an additional $13.1 million. As it stands, Career MAP has $24.8 million to help roughly 600 families get a shot at getting out of homelessness. Families will get up to $10,000 in cash, and will also receive intensive coaching from a social worker who will help them with restarting their careers, finding work and keeping them out of poverty.

“We know that with time and support, we can empower families to reach their goals and their highest potential,” Mayor Bowser said. “With the Career MAP program we are sending families a simple message: we continue to believe in you and we’ve got your back.”


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