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    Georgia gave low-income Black women $20,000 over 2 years. A participant said the money helped her afford day care and pay bills.

    A basic income program in Atlanta gave low-income Black women $850 a month, no-strings-attached.

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    Georgia’s basic income pilot helped low-income Black women afford bills and pay down debt. The program gave participants monthly cash payments — amounting to $20,400 over two years.Shamarra Woods, 31, said basic income helped her pay for rent and day care for her young daughter.

    When Shamarra Woods first started receiving basic income, she was able to buy clothes, diapers, and formula for her newborn baby. As her daughter grew into a toddler, the no-strings cash payments helped Woods pay for day care.

    Woods, 31, lives in Atlanta and is a single mom. She’s also a participant in Georgia’s guaranteed basic income pilot called In Her Hands. Launched in 2022 by nonprofits The Georgia Resilience and Opportunity Fund and GiveDirectly, the program gave 650 low-income Black women monthly payments for two years to spend as they choose. Funding came from foundations and philanthropic donors.

    “Single mothers — and women out there trying to make it or get themselves in a better situation — they don’t have the support they need,” Woods told Business Insider. “This income helps with that.”

    Participants were based in communities across the state: Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward, College Park, as well as Clay, Randolph, and Terrell counties. The women were put into a lottery and randomly divided into two groups — Group A received $850 a month for 24 months, while Group B received $4,300 during the first month of the program, then $700 a month for the following 23 months. All eligible participants had an annual household income below 200% of the federal poverty line, which is $39,440 for a family of two.

    Woods was in Group B. She said the lump sum helped her pay off outstanding bills, so she no longer has to weigh the risk of losing her electricity in order to buy groceries. Woods was also promoted at her job, an accomplishment she said was possible because she could afford steady childcare through the pilot program.

    However, she’s anxious about continuing to support herself without basic income — she received her final payment in May. Woods is hopeful she and her daughter can stay in Atlanta to build her career, instead of having to move back to her hometown in Mississippi.

    “My hope is to figure something out where I can put us in a better situation and she can grow up living a better life than I did,” she said.

    Georgia’s program is one of over 100 basic-income pilots that have been tried across the US. The no-strings cash typically offers low-income Americans $50 to $2,000 a month for a set period of time to help them pay for rent, food, healthcare, transportation, or other basic needs.

    In May, The Georgia Resilience and Opportunity Fund — a nonprofit focused on racial equity and poverty solutions — released a report on the pilot’s first-year impacts. Based on surveys and interviews, researchers compared participants with about 2,000 other low-income women in Georgia who were not selected to receive payments in the lottery but met the criteria for the program.

    Compared to non-participants, women receiving basic income were more able to afford bills and pay down debt.

    Georgia GBI participants felt more financially stable and housing secure

    The goal of the Georgia pilot was to support Black women experiencing financial insecurity and experiment with basic income as an economic policy, per the one-year report.

    From a financial standpoint, women receiving basic income were less likely than non-participants to skip phone and utility payments, overdraft their bank accounts, or be behind on credit card and loan payments.

    And, with less cost pressure, participants were better able to access medical care — and less likely to experience mental health challenges like anxiety or depression.

    Additionally, the number of participants experiencing home evictions and utility shut-offs in 2022 was lower than non-participants. Women receiving basic income were more housing stable, made on-time rent payments, and had access to healthy food.

    What’s more, participants were 60% more likely to be enrolled in higher education. Some participants said GBI allowed them to get degrees, management training certifications, or LLC licenses for their businesses.

    Mothers enrolled in the pilot reported the ability to save for their children’s education at a rate 13% higher than those outside the program. Many parents also spent some of their basic income on activities for their children, like summer camp or cheerleading dues.

    To be sure, Georgia’s program results reflect the short-term impacts of cash payments on participants. It’s not yet clear if basic income will affect the participants’ long-term housing or financial security now that payments have concluded, and not all economic experts or policymakers agree that GBI is a sustainable policy solution. The data is also based on participant’s self-reported experiences.

    The final In Her Hands report — with results from the second year of the program — will be available at the end of 2024.

    As basic income faces opposition, Georgia plans to continue programs

    Lawsuits and Republican-led bans are challenging basic income programs across the US, with some aimed at women of color.

    A basic income program providing $1,000 a month to pregnant Black women in San Francisco was sued last year. In an effort to halt the program, a conservative public interest firm alleged that the city’s use of public money for cash payments was unlawful because the pilot selected participants on a “racially exclusionary basis.”

    Still, The Georgia Resilience and Opportunity Fund and GiveDirectly plan to continue providing cash assistance to low-income women in Georgia.

    In fact, a second phase of the In Her Hands program began in May. The additional pilot provides cash aid to about 270 Black women in Atlanta’s English Avenue, Vine City, Bankhead, and Washington Park neighborhoods. Participants could choose between two basic income structures: either $1,000 a month for three years or $800 a month for three years with a lump sum payout of $8,000 at the time of the participant’s choosing.

    The Georgia Resilience and Opportunity Fund is also planning to launch a “baby bonds” pilot in early 2025, a six-year program that would give 250 babies in Georgia’s Black communities a trust account of $40,000, and provide their families with $500 a month in basic income. Like a similar baby bond program in Connecticut, the pilot seeks to combat infant and childhood poverty.

    Even with an uncertain future, Woods said Georgia’s GBI pilot helped her learn how to manage finances for her family.

    “I really wanted that for my daughter,” Woods said. “I wanted to build a really good foundation — put her in good schools and really invest in her education. I still want that.”

    Have you benefited from a guaranteed basic income program? Are you open to sharing how you spent the money? If so, reach out to this reporter at [email protected].

    Read the original article on Business Insider

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