5 groups pilot program to end ‘cliffs’

Dress for Success Cincinnati has been selected by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services in partnership with Easterseals of Greater Cincinnati to participate in a pilot program aimed at ending the “benefits cliffs.”

The term “benefits cliffs” describes when someone is offered a raise but cannot accept that raise because they would no longer have the opportunity to collect government benefits. In this situation, despite the increase in income, that person’s family would suffer due to the absence of government benefits.  

As part of the pilot “Benefits Bridge” program, Dress for Success hired Domonique Broomfield as a “peer mentor,” assisting clients referred by Hamilton County Job and Family Services as well as other agency clients.

A “peer mentor” is someone who has already bridged the gap between benefits and self-sufficiency themselves and, thus, can authentically relate, while providing Dress for Success clients with a supportive mentoring relationship.

The goal of the peer mentors is to serve as role models and offer direct support to current public assistance recipients to champion their own paths towards independence.  

“We are excited to participate in Benefits Bridge, as it is a collective action to solve the benefits cliff issue many women in the workforce face,” said Lisa Nolan, Dress for Success’ executve director.

After hearing employers report a substantial number of employees who were rejecting raises, the state made $2 million available for the pilot program to address the issue. The state issued a request for proposals to four counties. The local Easterseals organization responded to the RFP, highlighting its existing peer mentoring program.

Easterseals organized a partnership, including Cincinnati-Hamilton County Community Action Agency, Dress for Success, Talbert House and the Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio. Each of these organizations has hired an on-site peer mentor that will have up to 25 clients on their caseloads. All organizations in the partnership will provide wrap-around services to support clients.  

“We are thrilled to have welcomed Domonique as our peer mentor and to expand the impact of our work with under-employed women,” said Nolan. “Domonique has over 15 years of experience helping individuals transform and construct a life they love as a vision coach and mentor.”

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