LA2050 Grants Challenge applications are open now through June 28th, 2024.
2023 Grants Challenge

Addressing the Benefits Cliff for Artists

Piece by Piece offers free mosaic art classes to individuals experiencing homelessness or economic insecurity in South LA and Skid Row. Those participants that go through the free certification program qualify to earn income through creating mosaic art. This grant will support training and provide training and resources to help participants avoid the benefits cliff many face when they choose to better themselves working in the arts.


What is the primary issue area that your application will impact?

Income Inequality

In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

South LA

In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?

Expand existing project, program, or initiative

What is your understanding of the issue that you are seeking to address?

The benefits cliff in Los Angeles refers to the sudden loss or reduction of government assistance as low-income workers' earnings increase. This creates a disincentive to work or to work as much as they would like to, as the loss of benefits outweighs the increase in income. For Piece by Piece participants, we have seen them limit their hours of work in fear of losing housing, healthcare, and other benefits. This perpetuates income inequality. The high cost of living in Los Angeles exacerbates the financial burden on individuals, making it challenging to make ends meet and pursue personal development. Addressing the benefits cliff requires careful consideration of eligibility criteria, income thresholds, and the coordination of support systems to enable individuals to work to their full potential.

Describe the project, program, or initiative this grant will support to address the issue.

Piece by Piece is unique in that it allows participants to work as much or as little as they wish once they have completed certification. However, many participants do not work as much as they would like because they are in fear of losing essential benefits, aka the befits cliff, and not being able to survive on just their wages. The benefits cliff refers to a situation where individuals experience a sudden loss or reduction in government assistance as their income increases. In Los Angeles, this phenomenon can prevent individuals from working to their full potential. Through this grant, we will provide the support and resources needed to participants to allow them to work to their full potential without losing (or being able to replace) housing, healthcare, or other essential services. We will do this by bringing in a program manager who will focus on designing a curriculum, tracking tools, and evaluation metrics for all artists in the certification program. They will also teach group soft skills classes that focus on participants' needs, including how to prepare for work and the resources they need to successfully avoid the benefits cliff. They will provide information about earned income disregard, transitional benefit programs, housing retention programs, and more. In addition, they will provide one-to-one support for participants ensuring they have a safe space to discuss and evaluate how to move forward while retaining essential services or finding new resources.

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

As we provide comprehensive training, resources, and support to participants at Piece by Piece, our vision is to empower them to have a more meaningful work experience that isn't limited by the fear of losing basic essentials like housing, childcare, and healthcare. By equipping individuals with the necessary tools, we aim to enable them to contribute and earn at a level that meets their true needs. This result will be improved mental health, better access to healthy foods, and a healthier lifestyle overall. Furthermore, building a strong artistic workforce will enhance the quality of life for artists and benefit all Angelenos by increasing access to the arts and creating a community where more individuals can lift themselves out of poverty. We envision scaling our program to reach more participants, expanding our resources and partnerships, fostering sustainable career opportunities in the arts, and contributing to the cultural vibrancy of Los Angeles.

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

With our current programs, we rely on participant artists' surveys and external evaluations to measure progress. We will utilize both of those in this new work. In addition, we will develop certification progress evaluation forms that will include information needed to assess participants' current benefits and identify what support they will need. We will also create job readiness forms that will track the progress on addressing the benefits cliff each individual faces and what resources are being employed to support them. Success will be defined by each participant identifying how much they wish to work and then working with them to ensure the fear of losing benefits is not an obstacle in doing so. While much of this will be confidential, we will aggregate the data to identify patterns and best practices that can be shared with partners and other organizations.

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

Direct Impact: 120

Indirect Impact: 875