Montana State Legislature

HJ 49 - Study Benefits Cliff in Public Assistance Programs


Legislative Council assigned the House Joint Resolution No. 49 study to the Economic Affairs Interim Committee. The study ranked nineteenth among the polled studies.

Final Report

Balancing on the Edge of the Cliff: HJ 49 Study on Public Assistance Programs

September 2022:

The committee reviewed the draft final report and held a work session to conclude the study. There was no public comment at the meeting. The committee moved to adopt the final report to conclude the study, and the report was adopted unanimously.

September meeting materials:

June 2022:

The committee heard a presentation by the Atlanta Federal Reserve on its CLIFF tool, and also heard from the Department of Labor that the agency was in the exploratory phase of working with the Atlanta Fed on utilizing its model. Staff provided a brief executive summary from DPHHS outlining the results of their benefits cliff study and a copy of the draft final report for the committee's study. The committee then heard from Kevin Gilbertson, the state's Chief Information Officer, who described the procurement process for DLI's new unemployment insurance system and announced the state and agency is finalizing a contract with a vendor. 

There were no public comments for the study, and after committee questions and discussion, the committee decided to conclude the study, and directed staff to complete the final report for presentation at the September meeting.

June meeting materials:

February 2022:

The committee held a Q&A panel for the Department of Labor & Industry (DLI), the Department of Public Health & Human Services (DPHHS), and the Montana Budget & Policy Center (MBPC) regarding the information the committee requested at the November meeting. Staff provided an overview of memos on the unemployment insurance technology system project and HelpLink program from DLI, the benefits cliff study from DPHHS, and policy options from MBPC. Staff also provided a briefing paper on other states' approaches to address benefits cliffs. The committee decided during its work session to revisit the study at the June meeting, when the DPHHS benefits cliff study is complete and DLI is ready to continue the discussion on the UI technology project.

February meeting handouts:

  • Unemployment Insurance Modernization Project
    • Memo from Department of Labor and Industry
  • Benefits Cliff Study
    • Legislative Services Division
    • Department of Public Health and Human Services
      • Memo: Agency Benefits Cliff Study
      • Update: DPHHS Benefit Cliff Program Summaries
    • Department of Labor and Industry
      • Memo: Help-Link Update
    • Montana Budget & Policy Center
      • Memo: Benefits Cliffs in Montana: Best Practices in Reducing Cliffs

Work session handouts:

November 2021:

The committee heard from the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Labor and Industry, and the Department of Revenue for an overview of programs and incentives available to Montanans. Staff also provided a briefing paper on federal tax credits available for individuals and families. After the presentations by the agencies, public comment, and discussion by the committee, the committee requested the following:

  • An analysis by the Department of Labor & Industry on several options for a new unemployment insurance technology system.
  • A summary of other states' approaches to reduce the cliff effect.
  • A summary of the research done by the Montana Budget & Policy Center on federal limits for public assistance programs and how that compares to Montana's program limits.
  • An update from the Department of Public Health & Human Services on their internal research on the subject.
  • An update from the Department of Labor & Industry on the progress of the HelpLink program.

November meeting handouts:

September 2021:

The committee reviewed a background paper on benefits cliffs and public assistance criteria, and discussed study topic ideas and a suggested timeline.

Study topics chosen by the committee:

  • General education on the programs available from DPHHS, DLI, tax incentives from DOR, IRS
  • Other states' approach to reduce the cliff effect
  • Workforce shortage issues & solutions; DLI unemployment technology issues & solutions
decorative leaves element