Pilot to protect poor from benefit cliff

by North Texas Catholic

May 7, 2019


“Sarah” wanted to work and to provide for her four children. A cleaning job, at $9.50 per hour, seemed to offer the perfect opportunity until she learned her employment meant an immediate loss of $578 in the monthly public assistance that helped her feed and house her family.

“Jessica” and her husband rejoiced over her new evening job as a warehouse worker, until they lost the $500 monthly food benefits at the same time Jessica’s husband experienced a temporary layoff at his job as a construction worker. 

On March 5, Catholic Charities Fort Worth (CCFW) team members brought these stories and other discouraging realities faced by members of the working poor to Austin. CCFW staff members Shannon Rosedale and Cindy Casey joined Jennifer Allmon, executive director of the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops, in testifying in support of House Bill (HB) 1483 before the House Human Services Committee.

The bill, which was introduced by Republican State Rep. James Frank of Wichita Falls, is described as a pilot program for self-sufficiency, in which intensive case management and strategic financial assistance can be used to help lift individuals and families out of poverty by eliminating what is known as the “benefit cliff.” With the help of their case manager’s coaching, clients can steadily persevere in building stability through savings, even as incremental reductions in public benefits allow them to gradually move into financial self-sufficiency.

CCFW officials define such self-sufficiency as the ability to cover household expenses while eliminating consumer debt, earning a living wage, building savings, and living without public assistance benefits.

For those who testified, HB 1483 represents what Rosedale calls “a whole process.” CCFW staffers worked with the bill’s coauthors — Republican State Reps. Craig Goldman and Rick Miller, and Democratic State Rep. Toni Rose and their teams — to help research and draft the bill.

“Our testimony was definitely well received,” said Rosedale. “It was really satisfying to share our clients’ stories, to take their voices and help [legislators] to see, ‘this is how public policy is impacting your constituents, our clients. You need to hear this, because helping people to become self-sufficient is something that can help all Texans, not just those of us in Fort Worth, but across the state.’ We want to see this done, getting private and public entities to work together to end poverty.”

For more information about CCFW’s legislative efforts or to volunteer as an advocate, visit CatholicCharitiesFortWorth.org or contact Shannon Rosedale at [email protected] or by telephone at (817) 289-0455.

“Sarah” wanted to work and to provide for her four children.

Published (until 2/20/2035)