D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and Council member Kenyan McDuffie announced Thursday a new $1.5 million pilot program that will give 132 expectant and new mothers who live in Wards 5, 7 and 8 direct cash for living expenses.

The program — Strong Families, Strong Future DC — is set to launch in February. Martha’s Table, a nonprofit that aims to provide resources and services to low-income Washingtonians, will implement the program.

The program will give $900 per month for one year to selected mothers.

“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 during a news conference on Thursday at Martha’s Table headquarters in Ward 8. “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.”

A report from Lending Tree found that the average cost of raising a newborn is nearly $29,000 a year. The report said expectant mothers can spend at least $300 per month on diapers, wipes, infant formula and baby supplies.

The report said that includes normal household and personal expenses such as food, housing, transportation, insurance premiums and infant day care. Strong Families, Strong Future DC is modeled after Martha’s Table’s THRIVE program which offered cash assistance to 500 families living near or on the poverty level as a result of 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 with Bread for the City, the Far Southeast Family Strengthening Collaborative and Build Bridges Across the River, received $5,500 monthly over a five-month period.

McDuffie, who chairs the Council’s Committee on Business and Economic Development, also lauded the program, making a case for its necessity by quoting Martin Luther King Jr.

“As Dr. King noted decades ago in his 1964 Nobel Peace Prize address, ‘There is nothing new about poverty,'” the Ward 5 Democrat 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 cash 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. Today’s launch is a pilot program that I intend to see flourish and expand.”

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