We are at a powerful inflection point in our city’s history. Baltimore has so much promise, and we are on a path to recovery from the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. But, our recovery is far from over. We all know that Baltimore is the birthplace of racial redlining and neighborhood segregation. That legacy rears its ugly head in the stark inequalities and disparities in the quality of life afforded to residents in predominantly Black and brown communities. The COVID-19 pandemic laid bare this brutal truth we have ignored for far too long: Too many of our residents live in poverty and navigate the lasting effects of structural inequality.
According to the Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance 2019 Vital Signs report, 31% of Baltimore City children live below the poverty line. And the inequities are as stark as they are real, with 61% of those children growing up in Sandtown-Winchester versus 2% in Greater Roland Park.
But we have the power to change that.
To dismantle poverty in our city, we need to change the systems and policies that contribute to negative outcomes. We must act with urgency to ensure Baltimore City residents’ economic security and dignity, and we must be willing to invest in innovative solutions, such as guaranteed income.
Rooted in a history of racial and gender justice, a guaranteed income is an unconditional monthly cash payment, with no strings attached, given directly to individuals. Research shows that guaranteed income projects have resulted in lower poverty and higher earnings and savings. Guaranteed income has proven to be a vital tool in improving economic mobility and advancing racial and gender equity. This is about an investment in the future of our city and our young families by providing direct support so they can thrive.
Leveraging funding from the American Rescue Plan Act, as well as support from some of the city’s leading foundations, I recently announced the launch of Baltimore’s first official guaranteed income pilot program: Baltimore Young Families Success Fund (BYFSF); CASH Campaign of Maryland will serve as the nonprofit program administrator.
A guaranteed income can 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 food insecurity, pay for child care, seek employment, and support the growth of the local economy and small businesses in their communities.
The COVID-19 pandemic exposed how fragile, unstable and inequitable the American economy is. Now more than ever, we have an opportunity to create a more resilient economy and financial stability for families through investments like a guaranteed income. As seen with the Child Tax Credit, families could pay for child care expenses, have transportation to and from work, and maintain their employment during a national crisis that disproportionately impacts families of color.
Guaranteed income programs, like BYFSF, represent a commitment to a minimum standard of living for all and the idea that every child, no matter their zip code, deserves to grow up with the essential resources they need to thrive.
This is how we unlock the power of possibility and pave the way for a better, brighter future for Baltimore.
Brandon M. Scott is the mayor of Baltimore.