US Direct Money Program Targets Racial Wealth Gaps for Black Women


As interest in guaranteed income programs grows, a major program in the US state of Georgia aims to support black women facing gender and racial barriers to wealth

  • Hundreds of black women will receive regular cash payments

  • The program aims to tackle barriers related to gender and racial wealth

  • A growing number of cities are experimenting with guaranteed income

By David Sherfinsky

WASHINGTON, June 13 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Applying for jobs, landing a job as a delivery driver, caring for her six children: life is an endless juggling act for single mother Sheila as she struggles to make ends meet and support his family in Atlanta, Georgia.

“It’s tiring, because I’m trying to find a stable income,” said Sheila, 33, whose name has been changed to protect her privacy.

But this week, she will begin receiving regular cash payments totaling $20,400 over two years under a guaranteed income program supporting hundreds of low-income black women in the state.

“It’s going to be a big help,” she said.

Sheila is one of approximately 650 black women set to receive cash transfers with no strings attached on how the money is spent under a program organized by GiveDirectly and the Georgia Resilience and Opportunity (GRO) Fund, two non-profit groups.

Interest in Universal Basic Income and other guaranteed income programs is growing in the United States and beyond, with dozens of diets and pilots taking place across the country.

Organizers say it is the largest guaranteed income initiative ever in the southern United States, aimed at helping black women who suffer from entrenched economic inequalities due to systemic barriers related to gender and to race to wealth.

In the United States, black women earn about 61 cents for every dollar paid to non-Hispanic white men, which translates to a loss of more than $23,000 a year, according to a 2019 report. analysis by the National Center for Women’s Rights.

Black women in Georgia are roughly twice as likely as white women to live in poverty, according to the nonprofit Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, and nationally they are less likely to have rebounded from COVID-19 job losses.

“We’re just struggling,” said Taneisha, a 32-year-old who was also accepted into the Georgia program, as she described the challenges black women face.

“We’re still considered superwoman, but we can’t get superwoman’s level of pay, respect, and other things.”


Champions of direct cash support programs claim that they are very effective in fight against povertyimproving health and well-being and promoting economic empowerment.

Opponents say they can deter people from looking for jobs – although many studies conclude otherwise.

“Philosophically, it’s easier to get the program (passed) if the job is a requirement,” said Doug Holtz-Eakin, president of the American Action Forum, a center-right think tank.

Holtz-Eakin also raised concerns that state-run programs could skew local economies with higher taxes to pay them, and in turn drive high earners out of the area.

A growing number of U.S. countries and cities have experimented in recent years universal basic income or other guaranteed income initiatives that typically target a specific demographic.

“The data speaks for itself – people were working more. People were less sick, less anxious – people were spending more time with family,” said Michael Tubbs, the former mayor of Stockton, California, who launched his own guaranteed income scheme.

There have also been recent programs in the United States targeting women of Color and black mothers – but not on the scale of Georgia’s new, privately funded initiative.


Registration for residents of Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward neighborhood took place at the Ebenezer Baptist Church, whose former pastors included civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr., who was also a lawyer for a guaranteed income.

Participants must earn an annual income not exceeding twice the federal poverty level, which varies by household size, but for a family of four, this is equivalent to $55,500.

Half will receive 24 monthly installments of $850, and the other half will receive a lump sum of $4,300, followed by 23 months of payments of $700, as organizers experiment to find the most efficient way to pay out the silver.

Taneisha plans to pay off her debts and eventually find a better apartment for herself and her two children.

Sheila also hopes to move into a bigger apartment and aims to start a hair products business, which could provide her with more stable work and income.

“I have four daughters, so of course I have to be an example for them,” she said.

GiveDirectly is working with Appalachian State University to study the impact of the program, with the goal of providing data to guide future anti-poverty initiatives.

One of the goals is to assess the impact of guaranteed income on “racialized economic inequality,” said Miriam Laker-Oketta, research director at GiveDirectly, who said she would follow the women to learn more. on their experiences.

“We want to hear the effects on their health, on their income, on their assets, on their family relationships, on their well-being and on their resilience,” she said.

Meanwhile, organizers say they can already see the impact on the participating women.

“They leave happy – either crying, or smiling, or jumping,” said registration manager Shonda Godfrey, describing the reaction of attendees.

“You can have the relaxation of ‘I can feed my kids this month’.”

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(Reporting by David Sherfinski. Editing by Sonia Elks. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, which covers the lives of people around the world struggling to live freely or fairly. Visit .org)

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