Direct cash transfers support families during COVID-19 pandemic
As part of our COVID-19 response, New Moms partnered with Family Independence Initiative and the #GiveTogetherNow Chicago Fund to provide direct financial relief to families in our programming who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic.
Within the span of two weeks in late April, our dedicated program staff helped 45 families who were experiencing employment loss access an unconditional cash transfer of $500 each. In total, $22,500 was directly transferred into bank accounts of young moms across all New Moms’ programs!
Chief Program Officer Melanie Garrett described the initiative as exciting because it gets to the heart of New Moms’ mission and Family-Centered Coaching approach. This approach puts moms in the driver’s seat and affirms their strength, ability, and potential to accomplish the goals they set for themselves and their family.
“It’s truly putting our money where our mouth is and saying ‘we really trust you, you are the expert of your own life,’” Melanie said.
While COVID-19 has affected all of us, it has had a tremendous, immediate impact on the families New Moms serves. Many young families in our programs are experiencing homelessness and are out of school and work. The pandemic has exacerbated housing and employment loss, especially for young moms in front-line retail, manufacturing, and service industries.
Rashai, a Family Support participant, lost her job as a daycare teacher when schools were closed earlier this year. She said her #GiveTogetherNow cash transfer went directly to paying her rent.
“[My landlord] has been trying to be understanding and be patient and wait for [rent], but I’ve been giving him whatever I can get,” Rashai said. “The $500 helped out a lot.”
Destiny, a resident at New Moms’ Transformation Center, said in addition to buying diapers, wipes, and food for her two children, she used the money to pay for her daughter, Amiyah’s, Vitamin-D drops.
Destiny lost her job as a field worker for the Census in April due to COVID-19, and lost her insurance. She said before the cash transfer, she’d been struggling to pay the out-of-pocket cost for her daughter’s medicine.
“I felt relief, that there was hope,” Destiny said. “I took care of everything I needed to with the money.”
Family Support Specialist Paula Ciccarone worked with the residents of New Moms’ Clare Place in Oak Park to access the cash transfer. She said trying to communicate with moms remotely with such a short turnaround time was challenging but, overall, she was “delighted” to be the person to share this opportunity with them.
“I enjoyed the sighs of relief from participants,” Paula said. “Having cash without limits definitely gave them a sense of control and empowerment.”
Employer Engagement Specialist Ashlee Krawczyk said the moms she spoke with were “relieved” that they could stop stressing about living expenses like groceries and the gas bill even if just for a little while. She said one mom in particular was “so excited.”
“She hadn’t been working for a few weeks and was worried about how she would continue to get her new baby formula without a job,” Ashlee said. “When I told her that she was about to come into some money, she asked me what the catch was, but luckily there was no catch! She told her own mother while we were on the phone and sang to her new baby about all the diapers and formula she would get her.”
New Moms has been exploring direct cash transfers as part of a larger initiative to advance economic mobility for young families. For three years we have partnered with Community Financial Resources to provide young moms with free, FDIC-insured bank accounts through US Bank. Access to quality, free banking products is just one tool we use to advance racial equity in the face of generations of financial injustice against Black and Latinx communities.
Dana Emanuel, Director of Learning and Innovation, said New Moms is exploring ways to incorporate more cash transfers into programming. Transferring cash, she said, “is about financial inclusion and wealth-generation, it’s about racial equity. It’s about reducing financial stress immediately so young moms can plan for their short and long-term goals, and have the flexibility and autonomy to make their own decisions about their finances.”
Through our research into cash transfers, New Moms connected with the Economic Security Project, which introduced us to the Chicago office of the Family Independence Initiative. With the spread of COVID-19, Family Independence Initiative created the #GiveTogetherNow fund to distribute money to families impacted by the pandemic. Within two months of New Moms’ application for the program, our participants received the $500 transfer in their bank accounts.
“We’re thankful to the Family Independence Initiative for recognizing the importance of cash transfers for young families, especially those who lost jobs due to the pandemic,” Dana Emanuel said. “It wasn’t a burdensome process for participants to access their money and that’s really important, so I want to thank them for making it relatively easy.”
Melanie Garrett said she wants to thank the coaches at New Moms who demonstrated grit while facilitating the cash distribution to families.
“This required a rapid response,” Melanie Garrett said. “We had very quick turnarounds, and I know during this time that that can feel even harder to do, so I appreciate that everyone really rose up to this challenge and made sure this could happen.”
Moving forward, New Moms wants to continue conversations about cash with the hope of eventually incorporating unconditional cash transfers into our programming.
“We saw how much of a difference it made and we are planning to continue providing or somehow facilitating cash transfers for families,” Dana Emanuel said. “The benefits of cash – the direct reduction of stress that comes from cash – doesn’t end when COVID is over.”
Want to know more about building economic mobility through cash supports? Click below to connect with our community partners or read some of the research behind direct cash transfers.
Cash Supports Research:
- Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration Community Dashboard
- Magnolia Mother’s Trust Pilot Report
- Ideas42 and CARE “Applying Behavioral Science to Humanitarian Cash & Voucher Assistance for Better Outcomes for Woman”
- Aspen Institute webinar “Cash Infusions: Stability Now, Security Later”
New Moms COVID-19 Response: