Create Your Own Family Scenario

Follow these instructions to illustrate how a low-income family fares with a combination of wages, public program benefits and tax liabilities/credits.

  1. Answer the screening questions for whatever family size and at whatever income level you wish to analyze. The screening tool will compute eligibility and benefit amounts for households with or without children. The tool will not accurately reflect eligibility and benefit amounts for seniors (those over the age of 65) and those with physical and developmental disabilities.
  2. Review Monthly Family Budget Chart to understand how a family (based on the information you entered) can use public programs to achieve economic stability and fill the gaps between wages and "basic needs" expenses. The chart includes "basic needs" budget items, expenses, family supports (the benefit amounts from public work support programs) and reduced expenses (expenses minus public work support benefits). The Summary at the bottom of the chart shows “What’s Leftover” at the end of the month without public program benefits, with public program benefits that reduce expenses, and with tax credits divided over 12 months.
  3. Review expenses. Household expenses are automatically calculated (default setting) using the "basic needs" budget. You can, however, elect to override the default "basic needs" expenses and use a family’s actual expenses. The expenses page appears after the family information has been entered. You can edit the family expenses by entering new amounts in the appropriate boxes.
  4. To illustrate the effect of programs that are unavailable, not fully funded, have waiting lists, or are proposed to be eliminated, the screening tool allows you to turn programs off. The screening tool is defaulted to assume enrollment in all programs for which a family is eligible and this is reflected in the chart. However, some programs such as the Child Care Assistance Program and Section 8 housing have waiting lists in many counties in Minnesota. To reflect the reality for families who are eligible but can’t access these programs, you can turn off Section 8 and Child Care Assistance by clicking on the checked boxes next to the program name to remove the check mark. This will turn off the program and benefit amount and recalculate the reduced expense amount to illustrate the family’s bottom line.
  5. Select Bar Chart at the bottom of the page to get a visual illustration of the relationship between expenses, income and reduced expenses (expenses minus public program benefits).
  6. Select Line Chart at the bottom of the page to see at what income levels a family (based on the information you entered) will experience the “cliff effects,” the points at which they lose eligibility for public work support programs while gaining tax liability. For some families, experiencing cliff effect means that they are actually worse off at higher income levels than they were at lower income levels. This chart assumes enrollment in all the public work support programs for which the family is eligible (unless you have elected to turn a program off) and tracks the “What’s Leftover” (the difference between wages and reduced expenses) amount at increasing wage levels. 

Children's Defense Fund Minnesota

555 Park Street, Suite 410

St. Paul, MN 55103