Adam Hill

By Adam Hill, Executive Director of Forsyth Futures

August, 2021

One of Forsyth Futures’ core beliefs is that when our community has access to better, easier to understand information, we are able to make decisions that can result in improved quality of life for everyone in our community.

An example of this belief that worked well in practice began in the Fall of 2019 when Forsyth Futures published a community briefing on a phenomenon called the Benefits Cliff. The Benefits Cliff describes a situation in which a person who receives public benefits gets a pay raise and, as a result of that pay raise, they experience a net decrease in overall income because of the way that benefits programs are designed.

Many local groups had been discussing the negative impact that the Benefits Cliff has on our community so our team decided to pull together some information to make it easier for community stakeholders to understand the issue and have clearer, more focused conversations about action.

When we published the briefing, something interesting happened. It became a catalyst that brought together many community partners to plan collaborative action. Later that Fall, this collaborative group held a community event attended by about 200 people that helped attendees better understand the issue’s impact on our community and gave everyone an opportunity to connect to action-oriented workgroups. These workgroups, which were ultimately disrupted by the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, produced this report that summarizes their learning and points the way toward future collaborative community action.

As an outcome of these efforts, the community is now investing in work to better understand and identify potential local solutions to the Benefits Cliff. Notably, there is exciting work happening with the Asset Building Coalition of Forsyth County to coordinate a local response to the Benefits Cliff and by the Center for the Study of Economic Mobility (CSEM) at Winston-Salem State University in the development of a web-based calculator to help individuals and employers understand the complex dynamics between earned income and public benefits.

I’m proud to say that Forsyth Futures is a contracted partner in moving both of these efforts forward.

Photos from the Community Event

Recent Press for Benefits Cliff Work in Forsyth County, NC

Craig J. Richardson: The Minimum Wage Paradox
June 11, 2021; The Winston-Salem Journal

Introducing a Social Benefits Calculator for Forsyth County, NC
May 26, 2021; Center for Advancing Opportunity

Rethinking the Social Safety Net
Januray 14, 2021; Forbes