Mayor Brandon M. Scott introduces a guaranteed income pilot program to help combat the economic crisis from COVID-19 and support young parents hit the hardest. (Courtesy Photo)

By Nicole D. Batey,
Special to the AFRO

Mayor Brandon M. Scott, local officials and strategic partners, stood outside the War Memorial Building on April 20 to announce the Baltimore Young Families Success Fund (BYFSF), the mayor’s guaranteed income pilot program. 

The BYFSF will provide 200 young parents, between 18 and 24-years-old, with an unconditional cash payment of $1,000 per month over 24 months to provide financial stability and reduce poverty.

“Our guaranteed income pilot program will help combat the economic fallout from COVID-19 and assist young parents, hit the hardest by the pandemic,” said Scott. “This is, fundamentally, about putting our families in a position to succeed. Guaranteed income programs are proven to improve recipients’ quality of life significantly.”

“The Baltimore Young Families Success Fund will put money directly in the hands of our residents because they know what their families need to ascend the ladder of opportunity,” Scott continued, in a press conference broadcast on CharmTV and the mayor’s official social media accounts. “This investment is another example of Baltimore using its ARPA dollars to have a real impact on our residents and communities.”

Mayor Scott has allocated $4.8 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds that will be directly distributed to recipients. Costs for program administration will be funded through the Mayor’s Office of Children and Family Success (MOCFS) as well as private and philanthropic donors, including CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, The Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Abell Foundation, the France-Merrick Foundation and The Zanvyl and Isabelle Krieger Fund.

The pilot is a collaboration between the City of Baltimore, the CASH Campaign of Maryland, Mayors for a Guaranteed Income (MGI) and Steady. Guaranteed income is designed as an unconditional monthly cash payment given directly to individuals and is meant to supplement, rather than replace, the existing social safety net. Guaranteed income provides a steady, predictable income to recipients to decide how to spend direct payments based on their personal needs.

A guaranteed income source is expected to significantly improve the quality of life for families in Baltimore City. When families have a baseline income, they are more equipped to handle material barriers, reduce nutritional insecurity, pay for childcare, cover unexpected medical bills, and seek and retain employment. 

The CASH Campaign will offer benefits counseling and wrap-around services to support project implementation. Steady, a financial technology company, will distribute funds to participants. Abt Associates, Johns Hopkins, and the Center for Guaranteed Income Research will partner with the city to evaluate the project’s impact.

Over the last year, a steering committee co-led by Joe Jones Jr., founder, president and CEO of the Center for Urban Families (CFUF), and Danielle Torain, director of the Open Society Institute – Baltimore (OSI), have been meeting to design the pilot program. The steering committee conducted public surveys and focus groups, including the input of individuals eligible for the program in the design process.

“Baltimore’s predominantly Black and Latino working-class communities —already suffering from decades of institutional disinvestment — were among the hardest hit by the COVID pandemic and its economic fallout,” said Torain. “Guaranteed income is a powerful people-centered way to address both the historic disinvestment and the more recent impact of COVID. We hope that by collaborating with communities and creating this pilot, we can create a lasting model to help pull people out of poverty and invite more public and private investment in these communities.”

“We are excited that 200 young parents will be selected to participate in a rigorously evaluated program to learn how these unconditional resources impact their family strengthening and economic aspirations,” said Jones. 

Co-Founder and CEO of the CASH Campaign of Maryland, Robin McKinney, also made remarks.

“Baltimore joins other cities nationwide to show how providing a guaranteed income provides resilience, promotes self-determination, and preserves dignity for very low-income families. Results from other cities have shown that the recipients are healthier, happier, and better able to find full-time employment because their money worries have been largely eliminated,” said McKinney. “Hopefully, these guaranteed Income pilots will eventually result in a national program. The CASH in our name stands for ‘creating assets, savings, and hope,’ which is what guaranteed income will provide for 200 young Baltimore families.”

To be eligible to participate in Baltimore’s guaranteed income pilot, applicants must: 

• be residents of Baltimore City, 

• between the ages of 18 -24-years-old at the time of the application deadline 

• be either a biological or adoptive parent, or guardians, with full or partial care-taking responsibilities

• have income at or below 300 percent of the federal poverty level based on their household size.    

Applications will open at 6:00 a.m. on Monday, May 2, 2022, and go through 11:59 p.m. on Monday, May 9, 2022. Eligible residents can visit to apply or find answers to frequently asked questions about the program. 

Applicants must:

  1. Answer the eligibility questions

2.    Consent to take the survey and fill out the application

3.    Complete the application

Once the application closes on May 9, 2022, eligible applicants will be placed into a randomized lottery to select 200 participants.

Applicants will fall into one of four groups.

• Group A – 70 individuals will be selected for a storytelling cohort to share their experiences with guaranteed income. This group will receive a monthly payment of $1,000 for 24 months. 

• Group B – 130 individuals will be selected for a research study, including both quantitative surveys and qualitative interviews. This group will receive a monthly payment of $1,000 for 24 months. 

• Group C – 156 individuals will be selected as a control group for the research study. This group will not receive monthly payments but will be eligible for incentives for participation in the research activities. 

• Group D – The remainder of the applicants will not be selected for any program portion, including the payments and research.

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