Williamson’s Note: IYKYK, Navigating the Benefits Cliff

NOTE: Before reading, take a moment to review this video from our partners at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta to understand the benefits cliff and its impacts on low-income households and the broader community.  

IYKYK. An acronym whose popularity continues to rise on social media.  

If you know, you know.  

Using the term tells the reader you understand well a particular situation, feeling, experience, and so on. It often gives the user a badge of honor. If you know, you know – as if you’re now a member of an exclusive – perhaps not always desirable – club.  

Tens of thousands of households teetering on the edge of the benefits cliff know all too well the struggles of balancing incomes near minimum wage and the public and nonprofit benefits they rely on to survive. 

Child care vouchers. Housing assistance. Meal boxes. Internet subsidies. Gas cards. The list goes on.  

The extra income from taking a promotion or picking up just one extra shift has the potential to boot a family from life-sustaining benefits, falling off the cliff and tumbling down into poverty.  

If you know, you know.  

United Way of Southeast Louisiana knows this balancing act is too familiar for far too many families in our region who are underemployed or ready to be upskilled.  

That’s one of the reasons why we’re investing in workforce development, education, advocacy, and financial capability programs to help create a bridge – with our partners – to ensure fewer families have to rely on public benefits long-term.   

Take United Way’s Prosperity Centers for example. Our expert staff guides clients through an array of programs designed to help them take control of their finances, acquire wealth-generating assets, and increase their income while understanding their benefits mix so that they can (a) maintain eligibility to get by until they can (b) move off public benefits altogether.   

And we have a new tool to get that done. Our J. Wayne Leonard and Northshore Prosperity Centers now use the Atlanta Fed’s Benefits CLIFF Tool — a simple tool that plugs in a household’s current benefits and potential income increases to determine their benefits cliff and helps provide income projections along a given career path. 

Ultimately, the tool gives us the ability to see how a family can thrive – with appropriate interventions – helping to make economic mobility possible for more of our community.  

Thanks to our partnership with the Atlanta Fed, we’re working toward a day when fewer families know how it feels to forgo personal betterment for the sake of surviving. We’re working toward a reality in which we all know what it feels like to live in a place we’re proud to call home, with financial stability and economic prosperity for us all.  

United, we can get there together. I just know it.  

Living United,  


P.S. You can schedule an appointment with our Prosperity Center experts by calling (504) 822-5540 on the Southshore or (985) 542-8680 on the Northshore. Income requirements may apply.  

Corporate and nonprofits partners interested in learning more about using the Benefits Cliff Calculator with their employees or clients may contact ChiquitaL@UnitedWaySELA.org for assistance.