SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Low-income families who are finding themselves ineligible for public assistance programs are receiving some much-needed support.

Several legislators, Springfield WORKS/Western Massachusetts Economic Development Council and the Food Bank of western Massachusetts have teamed up to address this issue, celebrating the passage of a pilot program Wednesday morning.

“It’s a government really sort of, broken policy. And we’ll need a government fix,” said Anne Kandilis, Director of Springfield WORKS/Western Massachusetts Mass Economic Development Council.

The “cliff effect” occurs when a household earned income increases just enough for families to lose eligibility for public assistance supports like food, childcare, and housing services, which results in lower income overall to achieve economic stability. The “cliff effect” discourages people from advancing in their careers for a higher wage because of the sudden loss of critical services that leads to a decline in the standard of living and keeps individuals and families stuck in a cycle of poverty.

The three-year program will use monetary support to provide 100 households throughout the Commonwealth with benefits to help fill the gap created by the cliff effect as they work towards economic independence from benefits programs.

Springfield City Councilor Tracye Whitfield told 22News she’s experienced this herself as a single mom using assistance programs to provide for her kids, “You know, it’s not people that don’t want to work or they want to be lazy or they want to stay on benefits for the rest of their life… but if you don’t have a safe place for your child until maybe they get into the public schools, then for those five years you’ve got to make a decision.”

The hope is that over the next three years, this pilot program proves effective and will lead to legislation that eliminates this cliff effect for good. The pilot program will use ARPA funding to support 100 families experiencing the cliff effect, providing them benefits to fill the gap.

“As your salary goes up, we will work with the Department of Transitional Assistance to make sure your household income stays the same,” said State Representative Patricia Duffy.

Advocates of the program call it a major win in breaking the cycle of poverty.

Laura Sylvester, Public Policy Manager at The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts explains “Many of the households who receive emergency food at any of our 164 independent, local member food pantries and meal sites are directly impacted by the cliff effect. Fear of losing benefits prevents people from advancing in their careers, keeping them trapped in a cycle of poverty. It is a major cause of food insecurity and economic instability.”