FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 14, 2023
DC SHOULD EXPAND GUARANTEED INCOME PILOTS TO ALL FAMILIES, NEW ANALYSIS SHOWS
It’s time to bring proven benefits to thousands of DC families who live in deep poverty
Two pilot programs are boosting the incomes of DC families with low incomes and hold great promise to improve economic security in the District, according to a new analysis from United Planning Organization (UPO). The positive impacts of guaranteed income are so clear, the report finds, that the District should expand the best features of the pilots to all DC families with low incomes, rather than limiting them to a few hundred families.
“We know that families do better when they have enough money to support their children,” said Andrea Thomas, President and CEO of UPO. “We should not limit income-boosting programs to just a few hundred families when thousands of DC families live in deep poverty, with all of the stresses and challenges that it creates.”
The report examines two pilot programs — Strong Families, Strong Futures (SFSF) and Career Map — each of which provides over $10,000 in annual support to families with low incomes, along with other benefits. This added income is critically important, given that nearly one-fourth of DC children are in families with below-poverty income — less than $25,000 for a family of 3 — and because benefits in DC’s main cash assistance program for families, TANF, equal just one-third of poverty-level income.
UPO’s analysis notes that the pilots serve a small number of families (232 families in SFSF and 600 families this year and next) compared with roughly 15,000 families in TANF. Given the clear evidence in favor of guaranteed basic income — research shows that these programs improve school outcomes for children, reduce food insecurity, help parents find better jobs, and reduce the severe stresses of poverty – DC does not need to wait to evaluate the pilots to start applying the best features to TANF, according to UPO.
UPO makes 4 recommendations to expand guaranteed basic income beyond the pilots and minimize the impact of added income on other public benefits families receive.
- Increase TANF benefits. The current maximum benefit for a family of 3 is just $696, and most TANF participants do not get any subsidized housing assistance.
- Reduce the phaseout of TANF benefits when earnings rise. The District could alter rules to not reduce TANF benefits at all for a specified period as a parent begins to work, and then reduce benefits gradually after that.
- Structure TANF benefits to limit benefit declines in other programs. DC ought to allow families to choose to receive a portion of their TANF support as an offset to other expenses, such as rent or utilities, rather than as a cash payment.
- Take other steps to reduce other public benefit declines that are triggered when a parent earns more. The District could reduce co-pays in its childcare program and alter its Earned Income Tax Credit to phase out more slowly. The District also could work to replace lost federal SNAP benefits using a local supplement.
The UPO report acknowledges that adopting these recommendations will require policymakers to identify new funding and may need to be implemented over multiple years, but notes that the benefits of more economically stable families make it an essential goal.
“All of DC will benefit when families have enough resources to meet their basic needs and reach their potential,” said Thomas. “Children will do better in school, adults will be able to seek better jobs, and people in communities with very low incomes will see lower stress and greater mental well-being.”
The UPO report found that both pilot programs improve participants’ finances, but Career Map is especially effective. Career Map provides aid by reducing a family’s rent — rather than a cash payment — to avoid declines in a family’s public benefits. SFSF, by contrast, is a cash program, which can trigger a reduction in other public benefits. UPO found, for example, that a family with $3,000 a month in earnings would have a net monthly income of $2,969 under Career Map, after counting taxes and benefits and deducting rent, and $2,668 under Strong Families (SFSF participants can receive aid in an annual lump sum, which is then not counted against public benefits, but this also means families don’t receive assistance to help with monthly bills).
About United Planning Organization
UPO helps people lift themselves out of poverty. Many people throughout Washington, DC face financial insecurity. They turn to United Planning Organization for the tools that help them reach their full potential.
A nonprofit community development organization, UPO is the Community Action Agency that serves District residents with low incomes. We Unite People with Opportunities and address the causes and conditions of poverty: We fight for systemic changes by showing how policy affects opportunity, and amplify the power of DC residents to improve economic and racial equity.
A staff of 400 helps 50,000 DC residents each year with programs including education, job training and placement, health, housing counseling, and strengthening families and communities (including partnering with developers to create new affordable housing). UPO also operates the District’s first Financial Empowerment Center, where all DC residents can receive professional, one-on-one, free financial counseling virtually and in person.
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