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Guaranteed income scheme gives low-income NYC Moms $1000 a month with no strings attached

6 min read

Better Society
Guaranteed income scheme gives low-income NYC Moms $1000 a month with no strings attached
Source: Unsplash/Sai De Silva

The Bridge Project is giving mothers across New York City $500 or $1000 every month for three years—no conditions, no questions asked—to empower families to secure their own futures by providing mothers and babies with the resources to lift themselves out of poverty.

The bridge project is Putting cash in the hands of those who need it most

The Bridge Project is New York City’s first guaranteed income program. Launched in June 2021 by The Monarch Foundation, the Bridge Project is designed to support low-income mothers in New York City during the first 1,000 days of their children’s lives by providing them with consistent, unconditional cash on a biweekly basis.

The Bridge Project focuses on New York City, and will be a key part of national evaluations of guaranteed income; like many pilot programs, it’s working with the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Guaranteed Income Research.
No conditions, no questions asked. The Bridge Project focuses on New York City, and will be a key part of national evaluations of guaranteed income; like many pilot programs, it’s working with the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Guaranteed Income Research. Source: Unsplash/KE ATLAS

No conditions, no questions asked

In one of the richest cities in the world, nearly one in four children under the age of 3 live in poverty. That rate is about ten percentage points above the national childhood poverty rate, and the numbers are even worse for Black and Hispanic children.

  • 38% More than a third of young children live in families who could not afford one or more basic necessities

  • 49% Nearly half of NYC’s young children live in lower-opportunity neighborhoods with poverty rates of at least 20%

  • 34% A third of young children live with a parent who reports either moderate or serious psychological distress.

THE EARLIEST DAYS OF A CHILD’S LIFE ARE A CRUCIAL PERIOD OF EMOTIONAL AND MENTAL DEVELOPMENT 

Studies suggest that early childhood experiences can fuel intergenerational cycles of poverty. Excessive prenatal and postnatal toxic stress can create a lifetime of physical, mental, emotional, and social outcomes. 

The Bridge Project is giving mothers across New York City $500 or $1000 every month for three years, with no strings attached.

Their goal is to simplify the solution and empower families to secure their own futures. They want to provide mothers and babies with the resources to lift themselves out of poverty so the next generation of New Yorkers has a strong foundation to grow, learn, and turn possibility into reality.

Source: BridgeProject

In New York City, 64% of those living in poverty are either Black or Hispanic and land at the intersection of racial, gendered, and economic marginalisation.
Black and brown mothers play an unparalleled role in their families and communities, but too often are systematically excluded and marginalised, making it difficult for them to support their families and survive, let alone thrive. In New York City, 64% of those living in poverty are either Black or Hispanic and land at the intersection of racial, gendered, and economic marginalisation. Source: Unsplash/Barbara Verge

Why give cash? And why to mothers?

It’s an easy solution, say The Bridge Project. Giving people cash is intuitive: Low-income families lack flexible cash, live paycheck to paycheck, and are unable to save and generate wealth. Providing them with consistent, unconditional, and immediate cash is sometimes all it takes to lift them out of poverty. Minimise interference, maximise impact.

The cash the Bridge Project put in the hands of mothers can be spent on food and formula, rent or car repairs, education, childcare or diapers. They say ‘We really don’t care (and you shouldn’t either!). It can be spent the day it arrives, or saved for an emergency or longer-term investment down the line. Regardless, people know how to budget and spend smartly — it’s been shown that less than 1% of money from guaranteed income pilots goes towards tobacco and alcohol

And at the end of the day, it’s not up to us, and it’s not up to you —  it’s up to them. No one tells you how to spend your money, so give our mothers the same flexibility. Let’s stop pretending we know best.’

Direct support to women and mothers of colour can lead to improvements in health, family, and extended community relationships, and in general quality of life -- for women of colour, their babies and children, and for everyone else.
We need to eliminate the society that holds back women, and particularly women of colour. Direct support to women and mothers of colour can lead to improvements in health, family, and extended community relationships, and in general quality of life — for women of colour, their babies and children, and for everyone else. Source: Unsplash/Sai De Silva

Why give the cash to mothers?

The Bridge Project see investment in a mother as an investment in a woman, a child, and a community. Cash assistance today for mothers with young babies has the potential to allow a whole generation to separate from the toxic stresses of poverty, break intergenerational cycles, and provide the environment for children to grow into happy, healthy adults.

Babies feel the effects of their mothers’ poverty

While babies and children may not be able to read utility bills or understand medical debt, studies show that they are deeply affected by the varying levels of toxic stress their families face — which for families living in deep and entrenched poverty, is a lot. Not only can financial deprivation and instability have significant material effects on mothers, their babies, and their families, but it can also be a huge mental and emotional tax, quickly depleting a mother’s ability to provide for her children in the way she wants to.

Environmental stress is especially damaging in the first three years of a child’s life. Studies suggeststrong links between childhood poverty and cognitive and psychological disadvantages, including physical differences in the shape and function of brains. Young children who experience frequent or sustained stress are also more likely to develop depression, anxiety, and substance abuse issues later in life, as well as physical afflictions like heart disease and diabetes. They may have trouble processing stress effectively throughout their lives, and live shorter lives than those raised with less stress. Reducing stress in early childhood is critical, and helping moms meet their needs is a first step to setting these babies up for success.

Investing early means investing less

Cash assistance as an early intervention in babies’ lives could reduce the need for costlier interventions later. Research shows that later interventions are likely to be less successful in fully reversing the harm done to babies and children mentally, emotionally, physically, and psychologically — and in some cases is entirely ineffective. While there is no “magic age” for intervention, it is clear that, in most cases, additional support as early as possible is significantly more effective than waiting. ‘We would rather prevent than have to undo.’

At the end of the day, moms know best

‘We can’t possibly know what each baby or child needs to thrive in his or her family environment, but moms can and do. We want this project to be effective and efficient, and investing in mothers means investing in babies. Investing in babies means investing in the future generation and the future of our nation. We strongly believe that the most immediate way to a brighter future for the next generation is getting cash into the hands of mothers and letting them do the rest (well, at least until babies can swipe their own debit cards). 

Source: BridgeProject

‘We can’t possibly know what each baby or child needs to thrive in his or her family environment, but moms can and do.
At the end of the day, moms know best ‘We can’t possibly know what each baby or child needs to thrive in his or her family environment, but moms can and do. Source: Unsplash/Alex Pasarelu

Looking ahead

The program hopes to launch future phases throughout various neighbourhoods and boroughs to support mothers and their babies and alleviate child poverty across New York City.

WE KNOW THIS WILL WORK…

…there remains a few additional unanswered questions:

1. Can a guaranteed income targeted at mothers improve their babies’ social, emotional, and mental development and well-being?

2. For a city like New York City, what level of guaranteed income provides recipients and their babies with the strongest financial, social, and developmental outcomes?

3. Does the provision of additional services and resources encourage low-income families to take advantage of them, and are outcomes necessarily greater for those who do?

A guaranteed income can change the future of New York City. Starting with mothers and their babies, the Bridge Project say we can eliminate the deeply paternalistic approach we take to poverty and the social and racial inequities present in our society, empower those who have been repeatedly torn down by a system that doesn’t trust, and start a nationwide conversation and movement.

Source: BridgeProject 

Make an Impact

HOW TO HELP IMPROVE THE LIVES OF THE POOR

Poverty is a tragic condition that afflicts millions of people around the globe. Many struggle to obtain basic necessities and to provide for themselves and their families, yearning for a prosperous life free from the incessant distractions and anxieties of an impoverished way of living. Fortunately, rates of extreme poverty are falling around the globe, and drastically so, thanks to the advent of government reforms/market liberalisation. As reassuring as it can be to remain conscientious of the significant progress occurring in our world, however, millions still remain under the poverty line; economic progress, while ongoing, is not inevitable, and still necessitates committed efforts as a society to ensure the welfare of all people. Nonetheless, there are numerous ways in which you contribute towards the cause of further eradicating poverty. Here’s wikiHow.