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District officials announced on Jan. 13 a new $1.5 million pilot program that will give 132 expectant and new mothers who live in Wards 5, 7 and 8 cash for living expenses. 

The program, Strong Families, Strong Future DC, begins in February. 

Martha’s Table, a nonprofit that works to provide resources and services to low-income District residents, will implement the program providing recipients $900 per month for one year. 

Mayor Muriel Bowser, who has a 3-year-old daughter, said she understands the importance of mothers having financial resources to provide for their young children.

“Having a newborn is a big life change and we also know how critical those first months and years are to a baby’s life,” Bowser said. “The program is about supporting new and expectant moms with cash so that they can have the autonomy and flexibility to make the best choices for them and their baby.”

“The Strong Families, Strong Future DC pilot builds on the work we’ve done to address disparities in maternal health outcomes, make high-quality child care more affordable and accessible and ensure women are at the heart of our equitable economic recovery strategy,” she said. 

The program comes as a movement grows both in the District and across the country to give low- and middle-income people a guaranteed income. The Biden administration supervised a child tax credit program that ended in December for eligible families to receive direct financial assistance. 

D.C. Council member Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5), who chairs the Committee on Business and Economic Development, proposed legislation for the pilot program for low-income District residents which will help them with living expenses. 

The Magnolia Mothers Trust in Jackson, Miss., has a pilot program similar to Strong Families, Strong Future DC, giving money to economically challenged young mothers. Before her recent departure as mayor of Atlanta, Keisha Lance Bottoms announced a pilot program where 300 low-income mothers will receive $500 a month for one year.

Additionally, a report from Lending Tree revealed the average cost of raising a newborn totals nearly $29,000 a year with expectant mothers predicted to spend at least $300 per month on diapers, wipes, infant formula and baby supplies. The report also pointed to other expenses including food, housing, transportation, insurance premiums and infant day care.

Martha’s Table’s THRIVE program serves as the model for Strong Families, Strong Future DC, District officials said. The THRIVE program offered cash assistance to 500 families living near or on the poverty level at the start of the pandemic in March 2020. The 500 families who participated in THRIVE, a partnership of four nonprofit organizations that included Martha’s Table, consisted of Bread for the City, Far Southeast Family Strengthening Collaborative and Building Bridges Across the River, received $5,500 over a five-month period. 

Angel Hawkins, a recipient of the THRIVE program, praised the concept and its effects. 

“I am very happy I participated in the THRIVE program,” Hawkins said. “Since I graduated from Anacostia High School, I have worked for SunTrust Bank and Foot Locker. I was getting ready to go to cosmetology school when the pandemic came in March 2020. I lost income as a result of the pandemic. And, I had children to take care of.”

Hawkins said she connected with THRIVE and one of its workers made sure she had the resources she needed to pay bills and other living expenses.

“I am on my way to becoming a cosmetology instructor,” she said. “I think the Strong Families, Strong Future DC program will help others like I have been helped with THRIVE.”

David Lloyd, the deputy chief of programs at Martha’s Table, said people interested in the program can enroll through their website.

McDuffie voiced support for the program, quoting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“As Dr. King noted decades ago in his 1964 Nobel Peace Prize address, ‘there is nothing new about poverty,’” he said. “What is new, however, is that we have the resources to get rid of it. In the past year, we have funded baby bonds, birth-to-three child care and direct payments to new and expectant mothers. But we are not stopping there. Our city has the means to end poverty, and indeed, must do more than just that. We will create opportunities and assist with building wealth.”

James Wright Jr.

James Wright Jr. is the D.C. political reporter for the Washington Informer Newspaper. He has worked for the Washington AFRO-American Newspaper as a reporter, city editor and freelance writer and The Washington...

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