A select group of young Baltimore parents will get a financial leg up over the next two years courtesy of a guaranteed income pilot program that city officials plan to launch next month.
The pilot, which will begin accepting applications May 2, will offer monthly payments of $1,000 to 200 parents between the ages of 18 and 24. No restrictions will be placed on how families can spend the money, which is intended to provide financial stability in hopes of helping families out of poverty.
“This is fundamentally about putting our families in a position to succeed,” said Democratic Mayor Brandon Scott during a news conference Wednesday. “We are putting money directly in the hands of our residents because they know better than anyone else what their families need to ascend the ladder of opportunity.”
Baltimore is partnering with the CASH Campaign of Maryland to offer the program, as well as Mayors for a Guaranteed Income and the technology company Steady to kick off the Baltimore Young Families Success Fund.
A $4.8 million allocation from the city’s $641 million pot of federal American Rescue Plan money will be used to make the payments to families. Administrative costs will be paid by the Mayor’s Office of Children and Family Success and donors, including CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Abell Foundation, the France-Merrick Foundation, and the Zanvyl and Isabell Krieger Fund.
Baltimore is the latest in a growing number of cities across the country that have launched guaranteed income programs, including Denver; Los Angeles; Newark, New Jersey; New Orleans and San Francisco. Advocates argue families are better equipped to pay for child care, medical bills and food when they have a secure baseline of income. They also can seek and retain higher-paying jobs, something advocates say is borne out by the results of existing guaranteed income programs.
Robin McKinney, co-founder and CEO of the CASH Campaign, called the Baltimore pilot a historic opportunity. Not knowing how much income they’ll earn pushes families into a juggling act where they must guess what bills to pay and when, she said.
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“Having a guaranteed income of $1,000 a month creates stability, consistency and the opportunity for Baltimoreans to move beyond paycheck-to-paycheck,” she said.
McKinney said tax credits offered in the past have proved that families spend the money wisely.
“If you give people money,” she said, “they know how to best support their families.”
To be eligible, applicants must be residents of Baltimore City, between 18 and 24 at the time of the application deadline, earn at or below 300% of the federal poverty level based on their household size, and have responsibility on at least a part-time basis for a biological or adoptive child.
The application window will open at 6 a.m. May 2 and close at 11:59 p.m. May 9. Applications will be accepted at www.bmorechildren.com/guaranteed-income. Recipients will be selected by a randomized lottery of qualified applicants, and will be announced within a month. Funds will start being distributed in mid-July or early August.
McKinney said in-person help with applying will be available at sites set up across the city. The locations will be listed on the program’s website in the coming days. Participating in the program can affect other financial assistance city residents receive, so benefits counselors will be available to help residents decide whether to participate.
City officials said they will measure the program’s outcomes by dividing participants into several groups. Seventy people will participate in a “storytelling” group to share experiences and 130 will be chosen for a research study that will include surveys and interviews. An additional 156 people will be chosen as a control group; they will not receive payments, but will be eligible for incentives in return for participating in research.
This article corrects the maximum amount of income for eligible applicants, who must earn at or below 300% of the federal poverty level based on their household size. The Sun regrets the error.