The St. Paul pilot program, which began in 2020 and will run for 18 months, will pay $500 per month to 150 families.
Basic income programs, such as this one, are intended to provide assistance to low-income families with children.
Malissa Villegas and her fiance, Jason McCallister, work part-time jobs whenever they can to supplement their income. However, as a result of their disability and concerns about occupational exposure to COVID, they have been confined to their house with their two children for the majority of the previous two years.
Rather than attending a traditional school setting, Villegas’ eight-year-old daughter, Samantha, has been participating in online learning from the comfort of their own homes since March 2020.
In addition, Villegas is a full-time mother to Mason, her two-year-old son. According to what many parents will understand, caring for Villegas is a full-time job that does not provide a salary.
When Villegas was selected to participate in a guaranteed-income pilot program in her hometown of St. Paul, Minnesota, a new world of possibilities opened up for her family. For those who qualify, a guaranteed income is a one-time cash payment that comes with no strings attached.
These types of programs have grown in popularity around the country in recent years, with at least 33 of them being adopted in towns and states across the country, according to Insider magazine.
California’s basic income program gives cash assistance to foster youngsters who have aged out of the system, as well as pregnant women. The city of Jackson, Mississippi, provides financial assistance to 20 low-income Black moms who live in subsidized housing.
The common thread: no-strings-attached funding to assist folks who are experiencing financial difficulties.
Villegas and McCallister have been able to use their $500 per month income to pay for medical treatments for their children, vehicle payments, and diapers, effectively filling in the gaps left by the pandemic that had made it more difficult for their family to make ends meet.
“It helped me with the kids’ stuff, like clothes, diapers, and Christmas gifts,” Villegas said, listing “building blocks, books, and baby stuff,” as well as baby lotion, night cream, and bath soap to treat Mason’s eczema. “It helped me with the kids’ stuff, like clothes, diapers, and Christmas gifts,” Villegas said.
“When you’re dealing with a sobbing child, that stuff is vital,” she explained.
Cash payment programs have become increasingly popular as a means of assisting particular people during the pandemic.
Mayor Melvin Carter of St. Paul serves on the board of Directors of Mayors for a Guaranteed Income, a coalition of more than 60 mayors pushing to implement guaranteed income programs around the country.
Carter established the People’s Prosperity Pilot (PPP) in November 2020 to provide $500 a month for 18 months to 150 families who fall below the federal poverty level and have had their work hours shortened as a result of COVID-19 with financial assistance.
A guaranteed income benefits families in ways that typical public benefits do not, because it allows families to spend the money any way they see fit, according to Peter Leggett, Mayor Carter’s Communications Director, in an interview with Business Insider.
“This provides families with the flexibility and authority to respond to their needs as they arise,” says the author.
Childcare, in particular, was a significant difficulty, according to Leggett, with 63 percent of participants in St. Paul’s program experiencing financial hardship as a result of a shortage of childcare options as a result of COVID-19.
Disability benefits are insufficient to support a family of four.
When Villegas gave birth to Mason in 2020, she learned about PPP from a medical employee for the first time. Her mental health difficulties had caused her to be unable to work full-time for four years at the time of the interview.
Part-time jobs have a negative impact on her Supplemental Security Income (SSI), therefore she avoids them whenever possible. Generally speaking, money received via guaranteed income programs has no effect on a person’s eligibility for public assistance programs in the same way that employment has.
Because of mental health concerns and repercussions from a childhood incidence of spinal meningitis, the couple has been able to sustain their family on approximately $2,000 per month in disability payments.
They claim that after paying for rent, utilities, and groceries, there isn’t much money left over to spend on other household expenses. Insider said that Villegas’s family has benefited from the $500 per month they receive from PPP, which they have used to pay for car payments and school supplies for their children during the pandemic.
It also assisted her in paying to have her car repaired so that they could go see relatives for the holidays, take the kids to the doctor, and drive to the grocery shop, which is “just 10 minutes by car, but around 40 minutes by public transportation,” according to her.
‘I’d try to put my health on hold for the sake of my family and go out and make money nonetheless. ‘
Since 2003, McCallister has been a beneficiary of the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program, which pays benefits to those who are disabled. While still a toddler, he was stricken with spinal meningitis, and he continues to suffer from health difficulties as an adult.
As long as he was receiving SSDI benefits, he had always worked part-time employment, even taking on additional work during the pandemic.
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McCallister told Insider that it was tough to maintain work while still caring for Villegas and their three children. McCallister, like other persons who have suffered from spinal meningitis, has a reduced immune system, which makes working in a pandemic workplace a risky proposition for him.
For a period, he would work in restaurants or at a metal fabrication facility on a contract basis. He explained that the situation became untenable a few months ago when the children began to fall ill, notably with an upper-respiratory illness. In addition, the entire family received COVID.
The money from [PPP] “really helps out a lot when I have to take time off work,” he explained. “I’d try to put my health aside for my family and go make money anyhow,” he added.