D.C. launches pilot program to give cash to new parents and pregnant people One-hundred thirty-two new parents and pregnant people in D.C.'s three lowest-income wards will get $900 a month for a year to spend as they wish.
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D.C. launches pilot program to give cash to new parents and pregnant people

A new D.C. program will distribute $900 in cash to eligible new parents every month for a year. Tomáš Petz/Unsplash / https://unsplash.com/photos/O8eo2BC1SOI hide caption

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Tomáš Petz/Unsplash / https://unsplash.com/photos/O8eo2BC1SOI

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced Thursday that the city is putting $1.5 million towards a pilot program to provide direct cash payments to 132 low-income new parents and pregnant people in wards 5, 7, and 8, offering each of them up to $900 a month for a year — with no conditions or expectations on how they should spend it.

The program — known as Strong Families, Strong Future D.C. — will be managed by Martha's Table, a social services organization that has run its own cash assistance programs.

"It's expensive to have a baby ... diapers, formula, wipes alone are estimated to be $300 a month," said Bowser in a news conference announcing the program. "These payments will give moms the autonomy and flexibility that they need to provide care for their kids and themselves during this all-important first year of motherhood."

A spokesperson confirmed to DCist/WAMU that transgender and nonbinary parents are eligible for the program.

The program will target people who earn up to 250% above the federal poverty line — or $32,200 for one person, or $43,550 for two — and are in their second or third trimester of pregnancy or have a baby younger than three months. The three wards that were chosen have the city's highest proportion of Black residents; the lowest average household income; and least access to prenatal care.

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The new program, which kicks off in February, is funded with money set aside in the 2022 budget by Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie. It represents another in the growing number of experiments with direct cash assistance programs in D.C. and across the country — some of which have targeted young pregnant people or families. The basic idea is that cash, instead of targeted benefits like food or rental assistance, gives people more flexibility in deciding what they should spend on.

In 2018, a the Mississippi nonprofit Springboard to Opportunities launched a program to give 20 low-income Black parents in the state $1,000 a month for a year — no strings attached. The Magnolia Mother's Trust has since expanded and is now the country's longest-running basic income program; participants have said they have experienced an improvement in their financial situations.

More recently, for six months in 2021 the federal government offered families payments of up to $300 per kid each month as part of an expanded Child Tax Credit. And as part of the 2022 D.C. budget, the council expanded an existing tax credit for low-income families and is allowing for it to be paid out on a monthly basis. McDuffie also passed a related program to give low-income kids $1,000 a year for a trust fund they can access after they turn 18.

During the early months of the pandemic, Martha's Table gave each of 137 families a total of $9,000 in cash spread over four months. That grew into a larger cash assistance program known as THRIVE East of the River, which has benefited 500 families in Ward 8 with $5,500 in payments each over five months.

"We believe cash assistance is an efficient, impactful and transformational way to support family stability during times of extreme vulnerability," said David Lloyd, the deputy chief of programs at Martha's Table, at Thursday's news conference. "For families in wards 5, 7, and 8, this level of unconditional support is absolutely critical. Through this initiative, we expect to see significant long-term advancement in both maternal and child health outcomes in economically vulnerable areas of the District of Columbia."

This story is from DCist.com, the local news site of WAMU.

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