This tool requires training to fully understand how it works and the outputs it generates. If you will be a frequent user of the tool, you may want to consider becoming a Partner. Partners receive training on how to use the tool, assistance in analyzing results, and full access to all of the tool’s functionality.

Non Partners may use the tool to run a single-family scenario but will be limited in taking advantage of all the features offered without a username and password. For more information, please contact CDF-MN Economic Justice Outreach (click here for contactinformation).

Follow these instructions to illustrate the economic stability of the families who rely on a combination of wages, public program benefits, and tax credits.

1. Complete questionnaire to build household scenario.

  • Complete screenings as if you are an adult in the family you are assisting.
  • If wages are unknown estimate them to the best of your ability.
  • 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. Enter expenses.

  • The basic needs expense chart that automatically appears reflects a “bare bones monthly basic needs budget” specific to the county selected and household size.
  • Edit the default basic needs expense and use a family’s actual monthly expenses by entering new monthly amounts in any of the budget item boxes.

 3. Review Monthly Family Budget Chart.

  • This chart shows family budgeted expenses, public work support programs the family is eligible for, program benefit amounts, and reduced expenses for the family if enrolled in the programs they appear eligible for.
  • The tool also shows tax liability and tax credits the family may be eligible for
  • The bottom of the chart displays What’s Left Over (income minus expenses) without public programs and with program assistance. It also highlights the affect tax credits could have if received monthly as opposed to end of year.
  • This Monthly Family Budget Chart illustrates how public work support programs and tax credits can help fill the gap that often exists between expenses and wages and can improve the economic stability of families.

4. Adjust program enrollment.

  • The tool defaults showing the family enrolled in all programs for which they are eligible, you can turn programs off to reflect only the programs in which the family is enrolled
  • To reflect the reality families may not always be able to access a program (i.e., Waitlists, etc.), you can turn programs off by clicking the checked boxes next to the program name to remove the check mark.
  • Unchecking a program will recalculate the reduced expense amount to illustrate the family’s true bottom line. 

 5. Select and analyze the Line Chart.

  • The Line Chart found at the bottom of the page shows income level the family needs to achieve self-sufficiency without public programs, and the pathway there at various income levels and reduced expenses.
  • The Break-Even Line indicates when income equals expenses, and the family has $0 left over – anything below this line indicates a monthly deficit.
  • The dips highlight the approximate income levels at which a family will experience “cliff effects,” the points at which they lose eligibility for public work support programs while gaining tax liability.
  • The chart also shows the family’s bottom line with tax credits (the top graph line) if tax credits were distributed monthly.
  • For some families, experiencing a cliff effect means that they are actually worse off at higher income level than they were at lower income levels, which may be discouraging them from completing their pathway to self-sufficiency.