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Benefits Cliffs in Mississippi

Benefits cliffs refer to a situation where a small increase in income can lead to the loss of public assistance benefits, such as food stamps, Medicaid, housing assistance, and childcare subsidies. Some of the biggest drivers of Mississippi’s benefits cliffs are the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and Medicaid. 

This cliffs phenomenon creates a disincentive for individuals and families to work harder or accept a higher-paying job since the increase in income may result in a net loss of benefits.

Mississippi’s Most Common Benefits Cliffs

In Mississippi, benefits cliffs are a significant concern, particularly for low-income individuals and families. Mississippi has one of the highest poverty rates in the country, with over 19% of its population living below the poverty line. Many of these individuals rely on public assistance programs to meet their basic needs.

The Mississippi Department of Human Services (MDHS) administers several public assistance programs. They provide crucial support to low-income families, but they are also subject to benefits cliffs.

Mississippi’s TANF Cliff

For example, in Mississippi, a family of three receiving TANF benefits will lose their entire benefit if their income exceeds $735 per month. Similarly, a family of three receiving SNAP benefits will lose their benefits entirely if their income exceeds 130% of the federal poverty level, which is $2,252 per month. These cliffs can create significant disincentives for families to work harder or accept a higher-paying job since the increase in income may result in a net loss of benefits.

Mississippi’s Child Care Assistance Cliff

Moreover, the Mississippi Department of Health (MDH) administers the Childcare Payment Assistance (CCPA) program, which helps low-income families afford childcare. Families can lose their CCPA benefits if their income exceeds 85% of the state median income, which is $4,310 per month.

Addressing these benefits cliffs may require policymakers to rethink how Mississippi’s public assistance programs are structured so that they provide a better pathway to economic self-sufficiency.

Business Impact of Mississippi’s Benefits Cliffs 

While there is limited data on how benefits cliffs specifically impact employers in Mississippi, there are several ways in which benefits cliffs can indirectly affect businesses in the state.

Mississippi Cliffs and Workforce Participation 

Benefits cliffs can contribute to a lack of workforce participation, particularly among low-income individuals and families. If workers are hesitant to accept a higher-paying job due to the risk of losing their public assistance benefits, employers will face a limited pool of available workers and struggle to fill needed roles. This situation can be particularly challenging for businesses in industries with high turnover rates or for those that require specialized skills.

Mississippi Cliffs and Employee Turnover

Benefits cliffs can contribute to a higher rate of absenteeism and turnover among workers. If workers are struggling to make ends meet due to the loss of their public assistance benefits, they may be more likely to miss work or leave their jobs altogether. Small businesses are often most affected by this trend because they may not have the resources to easily replace workers.

Mississippi Cliffs and Economic Opportunity 

Benefits cliffs can contribute to a cycle of poverty and dependence on public assistance programs. If workers are unable to earn enough income to support themselves and their families, they may continue to rely on public assistance programs. As a result, workers are unable to achieve economic self-sufficiency, limiting their ability to contribute to the economy as consumers and taxpayers.

Policy Approaches to Mississippi’s Benefits Cliffs

Mississippi has implemented several welfare reform efforts over the years, aimed to promote work and self-sufficiency among low-income families while also providing support services to help them achieve their goals.

Overview of Mississippi’s Welfare Reform Efforts 

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF): Mississippi participates in the federal TANF program, which provides cash assistance to low-income families with children. Mississippi has set a lifetime limit of 60 months for TANF benefits and requires recipients to participate in work-related activities in order to receive benefits.

SNAP work requirements: Mississippi is one of several states that have implemented work requirements for able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDs) who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. ABAWDs are required to work, participate in work-related activities, or participate in an approved training program for at least 80 hours per month in order to continue receiving benefits.

Workforce training programs: Mississippi has invested in workforce training programs to help low-income individuals acquire the skills they need to secure employment and advance in their careers. Programs such as the Mississippi Works initiative and the Mississippi Partnership Workforce Development Program provide training, job placement assistance, and other services to help individuals achieve self-sufficiency.

Child care assistance: Mississippi provides child care assistance to low-income families through the Child Care Payment Program, which helps eligible families pay for child care while they work or attend school. The program is designed to support parents in their efforts to achieve self-sufficiency by ensuring that their children have safe and reliable care while they work or pursue education and training.

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