IMPAQ to Support the Maine Office for Family Independence in Addressing Public Assistance “Cliff Effect” Challenge

Columbia, Maryland


June 10, 2020

IMPAQ was recently awarded a contract by Maine’s Office for Family Independence to evaluate new state policies and programs aimed at ameliorating or alleviating the “cliff effect” in public assistance programs.

Nationally, when low-income, working families participate in social safety net programs such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and Medicaid, modest increases in earnings often do not offset the cost of benefit reductions that occur as their incomes increase. This reduction of overall income and benefits as job earnings increase is referred to by many as the “welfare cliff” or “cliff effect.”

IMPAQ researchers will conduct a mixed-methods evaluation of key policy changes and new programs aimed at addressing this problem in the State of Maine. The evaluation will include two components:

  • A quantitative outcomes study, based on both program administrative data and data collected through voluntary surveys of beneficiaries
  • A qualitative study, based on voluntary interviews with program beneficiaries

The project is set to run through February 2022.

“IMPAQ is excited about this project because it represents an intentional effort by Maine to address the cliff effect by, for example, providing supplemental food benefits to TANF beneficiaries whose increased earnings reduce their SNAP benefits,” says Jennifer Pooler, Senior Research Associate and director of the project. “Providing a pathway to self-sufficiency for hardworking, low-income Maine residents is more important than ever now, given the COVID-19 pandemic, and we look forward to working with the Maine Office for Family Independence to launch this important study.”