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Springboard to Opportunities

Springboard to Opportunities launched the Magnolia Mother’s Trust to provide $1,000 cash, monthly, to low-income, Black mothers living in subsidized housing — no strings attached. This allows these mothers to meet their basic needs, prioritize their health and give them the agency to make decisions for their families while minimizing tradeoffs.

The Problem

Financial choice is key to feeling self-sufficient, having economic capability and exercising agency. But more often than not, programs designed to address poverty are temporary fixes that only provide the bare minimum needed to survive. They don’t provide financial freedom or security or help build wealth, and many welfare programs come with multiple stipulations that cause families to make unsustainable tradeoffs.

[The mothers] really just have an opportunity to show up and live their full lives. And that’s the beauty and the power of cash.

- Aisha Nyandoro, CEO, Springboard to Opportunities

The Solution

In the fall of 2018, Springboard to Opportunities launched the Magnolia Mother’s Trust (MMT), the first program of its kind in the United States providing monthly cash payments to Black mothers living in subsidized housing – no strings attached.

MMT was designed for moms, by moms. “We trust our families and they know what they need to be successful: they don’t have to prove they’re poor enough to receive this benefit or provide documents like they do for the current welfare system,” says Sarah Stripp, Managing Director at Springboard to Opportunities.

Springboard to Opportunities held focus groups of Black mothers to better understand the needs of families living in subsidized housing. They found that the moms didn’t need more programs — they needed cash. The amount the moms recommended — $1,000 monthly — gives them the flexibility they need to minimize tradeoffs when making decisions for their families. Tradeoffs such as choosing between paying the bills on time or buying quality groceries and choosing between working longer hours or taking night classes. Cash payments enable moms to prioritize health, meet transportation needs, care for their families and advance their careers.

The Impact

Springboard to Opportunities has seen overwhelmingly positive results for MMT participants. In the first year, the number of moms who were able to provide three meals a day or opt for healthier food for their families increased by 43%. In the second year, the percentage of moms who were able to pay their bills on time increased from 27% to 83%. The percentage of mothers who had money saved for emergencies rose from 40% to 88%. 100% of mothers felt more hopeful about their futures than when they first joined the program.

MMT participant Tamika shares: “When I first received the first check, I wasn’t working then. That was when I had just lost my job. I was able to buy things my children needed… And I was able to pay my bills so that was helpful to have like no strings [attached] felt like a blessing.”

Wellbeing in Action

Blueprint Recommendation 4.3: Don’t fund staffed anti-poverty programs when what’s needed are direct payments.

Welfare programs too often reflect and reinforce the widely held, inaccurate assumption that people are in poverty because they can’t manage money. In reality, most people in poverty know how to stretch a dollar, but aren’t given the choice, agency and flexibility to do so.

The Wellbeing Blueprint recommends direct cash payments to people in poverty instead of staffed programs that help people merely survive being poor. What people need is money to be less poor, and MMT is proving this to be the case.

Thanks to no-strings-attached monthly payments, MMT mothers are purchasing healthier food, caring for their families and going back to school to advance their careers and pursue higher paying jobs. This is the power of cash and financial choice, which allows mothers to care for their families without sacrificing wellbeing.

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