The calculator is intended to help employment counselors help individuals and employers understand the issues they face in hiring worried candidates. It also makes it clear that elected officials and policy makers need to iron out this cliff.

About five years ago, the Partnership brought together a coalition of about 130 people, led by employers, training providers, labor intermediaries, educators and social service organizations to discuss the reorientation and improvement of the workforce system. It became clear that serious problems were facing low-wage, unskilled workers who were trapped in poverty, Gallagher recalled.

The result was the calculator, created with the help of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. This does not solve the profit cliff problem, but helps to avoid its trap.

Gallagher is correct that this is a nationwide problem that requires policy changes at the highest levels of state and federal governments. Public policy should be about helping people get off government assistance, not shackling them.

It is an insidious problem. Even recent increases in the state’s minimum wage come into play. People who previously worked a full week at $8 an hour can now be limited to just 20 hours so they don’t lose essential benefits. It’s surely frustrating, but the decision is rational.