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Opinion: New Missouri law will help residents escape safety-net cliffs

Missouri lawmakers took an important step forward for working-class and impoverished residents this year by enacting Senate Bill 82. This new law will help more Missourians escape from an entrapping safety-net system and experience the dignity and opportunity of work.

On paper, our safety-net programs in Missouri are intended to help people avoid abject poverty and meet their basic needs. These programs should be temporary whenever possible and encourage work and independence, because ultimately what we want for people is stability and mobility. The sad reality, however, is that many of the programs include a hidden time bomb that threatens the very individuals they are intended to help.

For those receiving safety-net benefits — especially SNAP, child care assistance, and Medicaid — there can be a sudden, steep loss of government assistance as a worker’s income increases. This often results in a loss in benefits that far exceeds the additional pay from a raise a worker receives. These unintended consequences of the benefits cliff can be devastating, trapping individuals and families in a perpetual cycle of poverty. It is high time we address this issue and strive for a more sustainable and supportive system.

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