Jeannett Escarcega has first-hand experience with what it means to suffer the cliff effect. That’s what happens when a raise in salary leads to the termination of a work support benefit, leading to what often is a big net loss for the family involved.
She accepted a job earning $14 per hour as a customer service representative. And that was too much money to continue receiving food stamps worth $500 per month for her family of three, including sons Antonio, 9, and John, 4. She also initially lost Colorado Child Care Assistance, although she has since been reinstated with a parental fee that costs her $350 per month.
Jeannett Escarcega shows her son, John, 4, a photo on her mobile phone in their east Denver apartment on Sunday, May 9, 2013.
“Just not having CCAP was a struggle every day to have someone who could watch my children after school or before school,” she said. “I hired my niece to watch my children. That did not work for very long. I had to find another family member and another family member. So it was a struggle every day to figure out who was going to watch them.”
The loss of food stamps also hurt. With them, she had $500 per month for food. Without them, her food budget shrank to $200, which was not enough. She has subsidized her higher income with credit cards to make up for the loss of benefits, in itself a problem.
For Escarcega, the struggle with the better paying job and reduced benefits has become overwhelming.
“I cry on my way to work,” she said, “I cry on the way back home. Instead of them seeing what mommy is going through, I don’t show it to them. I don’t show it to nobody. It’s all behind closed doors.”
She has begun to consider her options. Before, she had two part-time jobs, one in the morning and one at night, and the work-support benefits.
“It seems like life would be easier to not make as much money as I do now because I would have support and stepping stones to get a head in life. If I was able to have all these (work support) programs and attend school then I would go back to school, get a degree and no longer be on these programs and maybe even help out.”