Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway announced today the launching of a new guaranteed income pilot program for the city of Madison.
The program, called the Madison Forward Fund, will provide 155 Madison households a monthly cash payment of $500 for one year. The money is unconditional, with no work requirement or restrictions on how the money can be spent.
Mayor Rhodes-Conway that the program is needed now more than ever, especially for families.
“Low income families have weathered the storm of the pandemic, with some help of the federal government. But now many of those pandemic programs have come to an end, just as families are being pummeled with high inflation and a shortage of childcare. The Economic Policy Institute recently found that the average cost of infant care in Wisconsin is 48% more expensive than the average cost of a public college,” Rhodes-Conway says.
To qualify for the monthly funds, households must have an annual income of less than 200% of the federal poverty line, or around $36,000 for a family of two. Then, households who applied will be chosen at random.
Mayor Rhodes-Conway says the program has two main goals.
“The purpose of this program is to help our most vulnerable citizens during these tumultuous times, but also to build momentum for a sustained federal program that will bring stable support for families,” Rhodes-Conway says.
Those who are chosen to participate in the program will then be given the opportunity to participate in a year-long research study, focusing on how the direct cash payments influences their lives.
Katherine Magnuson is the Director of the UW’s Institute for Research on Poverty. She says being able to show how direct cash payments help those who receive them can have benefits on a national scale.
“We have a lot to learn, and one thing we have learned from studying poverty policies for a long time, is that having good evidence and being able to tell compelling stories about what money can do for families and communities is critically important. I am proud, as a citizen of Madison, to be supporting this effort, and I’m even more excited for knowing that we are going to learn a lot together. Most importantly we are going to be learning from the families participating in the program, and we are going to bring evidence to policymakers, advocates, and policy administrators, to convince them at cash – actual cash – can be a powerful tool to fighting poverty,” Magnuson says.
In addition to the 155 households receiving the money, 200 households who are not receiving the guaranteed income will also participate in the study as a control group.
The program first got off the ground last year, when Mayor Rhodes-Conway became one of the first mayors to join the Mayors for a Guaranteed Income, or MGI. That group is a coalition of cities across the U-S advocating for various guaranteed income policies.
Mayor Rhodes-Conway says that this group of mayors is looking to create change on a national scale.
“Fortunately, the number of cities joining the coalition for a guaranteed income has grown to having over 80 participating mayors, and this network is working together to advocate for a guaranteed income at both a local, state, and federal level,” Rhodes-Conway says.
Other cities involved in the coalition include Atlanta Georgia, St Paul Minnesota, and Pittsburgh Pennsylvania.
The money will actually come from two different sources, and the city itself is not footing the bill. In December of 2020, MGI announced that Madison would receive up to $600,000 to kick off the program. That money came from Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. This money has been used for administrative purposes, and has helped set up and design the program.
The other portion of the funds, $930,000, comes directly from the Madison Forward Fund through private donations from groups such as MGI, UW Health, and the Alliant Energy Foundation. This will be the money that actually goes to Madison residents.
The program is entirely funded by non-city taxpayer dollars, according to the Madison Forward Fund website.
Those funds will be distributed to selected households by TASC, a Madison-based administrative services company.
The city is accepting applications for the new program starting today, until July 3. You can apply for the program online on the Madison Forward Fund website.
Photo courtesy: Nate Wegehaupt / WORT News Team