Staff members at Springboard To Opportunities heard repeatedly from their clients that the thing they needed to successfully reach their goals was more cash. In response, the Jackson, Mississippi, organization launched the Magnolia’s Mother’s Trust in 2018. It couldn’t have been simpler: for 12 months, it provided low-income Black mothers with $1,000 cash, no-strings attached, each month. According to Aisha Nyandor, the chief executive at Springboard To Opportunity, “We launched with the bold idea that you can trust individuals with money, you can trust Black women with money, you can trust financially vulnerable Black women with money.” Trust was at the center of this idea, and the ultimate key to the program’s success.

Over 100 similar guaranteed income programs—sometimes called guaranteed basic income—have been launched across the country. Although there is considerable variability in the amount and timing of payments, most distribute monthly payments ranging from $500 to $1,000 to people living at or below certain income thresholds, many of whom are members of historically marginalized groups. Participants are able to purchase the things they need, on their own terms, to improve their lives—from food security to investing in durable goods, such as a car or a refrigerator, and seeking education and training that creates longer-term economic security.

Providing these resources can have a profound impact on families’ lives. Deontrez, a 23-year-old father of a one-year-old daughter, explained, “The funds have helped me pay for things that my daughter needs like diapers and wipes and some household needs. Due to receiving these payments, I was able to pay for my test to get my Commercial Driver’s Licence, which is how I provide for my family. These payments have helped me set the foundation for my family.” Friends and family members in the recipient’s network can also benefit from the increased resources.

Giving People Cash Relieves Stress and Creates Bandwidth

Unconditional cash transfers support dignity and self-determination by placing decisions about how to spend cash in the hands of those experiencing poverty. Unlike other benefits programs, guaranteed income programs recognize that poverty is a context—not a personal failure. Unconditional cash transfers help change that context.

Read the full article about guaranteed income by Kelli Garcia at ideas42.