June 8, 2021 - Step Up Savannah and the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta are launching a first-of-its-kind tool in the region to help working families connect to rewarding careers and livable wages.
Debuting June 15 via live stream, the Career Opportunity Dashboard for Economic Mobility (CODE) helps individuals understand which in-demand career paths will help them achieve self-sufficiency and overcome a potential loss of public assistance (sometimes known as a benefits cliff) based on their income, region, occupation, and family dynamics. The “benefits cliff” refers to instances where families currently receiving public benefits assistance are discouraged from pursuing opportunities to gain more income due to fear of losing aid. The cliff effect can also occur when families are excluded from aid because they fall outside of the set income levels for eligibility.
"We are the first in our region to implement a benefits cliff calculator and merge it with a workforce development career path planner," noted Step Up Savannah executive director Alicia M. Johnson. "This tool is a significant milestone for the working families in our area, and we are proud to, once again, be leading the way with innovative economic mobility solutions for the people in the southeast area. We are grateful for the work of the Atlanta Fed in developing this resource that will help individuals and families in Savannah-Chatham and surrounding areas reach their economic mobility goals.”
“CODE helps workforce development professionals gain insight into what an actual career pathway looks like as a worker enters and moves up in a profession," said David Altig, executive vice president and director of research at the Atlanta Fed. "It can help inform decisions, reduce uncertainty, and ensure everyone has an opportunity to participate fully in our economy."
CODE will help establish the goal of developing a no-wrong-door approach to the workforce development system. Additionally, the tool will be integrated into Step Up Savannah’s Workforce Development Program to assist program coordinators in providing a full range of services for individuals participating in the program.
Step Up Savannah will offer an overview and training to all its partner agencies across the community, starting June 15.
Workforce efforts across the southeast region have increased focus on quality job training, credentialed workers, and skill enhancement. With these efforts, a primary goal is to help individuals advance into higher-paying careers and understand how higher income from new trades can establish a path toward self-sufficiency—the ability to pay your bills without relying on public assistance.
While Savannah is a city rich in human, natural, and creative resources, thousands of its residents—at least 21% of Chatham County residents-live in income poverty (Prosperity Now, 2020). Georgia’s asset poverty rate is 27.3 percent, while the national rate is 24.1 percent. Comparing this to Savannah’s asset poverty rate of 35.5 percent means that more than one in three Savannah households is without sufficient net worth to navigate the loss of a job (2020, Prosperity Now). Citizens in Chatham County are more likely to be asset-poor than the average Georgian and are less able to respond to unexpected events such as sudden loss of income or unforeseen medical expenses. Additionally, working families also experience another barrier when career advancement puts a family above the income eligibility threshold for public assistance programs, becoming a barrier to their economic mobility. “Due to the loss of these programs, career advancement opportunities can result in the family being financially worse off or no better off than before the wage increase,” Said Kimberly Paulk, Public Benefits Manager.