Front and Center: Two Years After Receiving Guaranteed Income, This Family Is Still Feeling the Benefits

Front and Center is a groundbreaking series of op-eds—published by Ms. and created in partnership with the Magnolia Mother’s Trust—which aims to put front and center the voices of Black women who are affected most by the often-abstract policies currently debated at the national level. The series highlights the success of Springboard to Opportunities’ Magnolia Mother’s Trust, which this year will give $1,000 per month for 12 months to 100 families headed by Black women living in federally subsidized housing.

What possibilities could open up for low-income families if financial survival weren’t always top of mind? What dreams would these mothers and families be able to pursue? What activism and community leadership might arise? The series will answer these and other questions, by placing one mother’s story front and center every other week. The first-person accounts in this series are available for reprint. Find additional guidelines at the end of this story.


I have two kids—my son Phabian is 18 and my daughter Johkeria is 11. They are both doing really well. Fabian is in the marching band, he’s an A student, on the honor roll. My daughter is also in the band and choir and attends an honor school. 

I strive to do my best because I know if I’m my best self that my kids will see that and also want to be their best selves.

I work at the Willowood Developmental Center in Jackson, Miss., which provides services to adults who have mental disabilities. I have been there for just over three years, and I absolutely love it. I work from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., but sometimes I stay longer since shifts have been different during the pandemic or things have come up for my colleagues. I don’t mind, I stay late and help however I can.

The reason I love the job so much are the people we serve—I enjoy spending time with them, helping them, just being there for them. It’s a job I’d like to keep doing in the future, and maybe even progress in, to the point of possibly opening up my own group home. It wouldn’t take any more training than I have—we already take courses every six months to stay up on certifications, and then take additional training on giving medications and things like that. What I really need that I don’t have figured out yet is the logistical side of it, so I just need to find out more about what it would take for me to open my own facility. I don’t have a lot of experience with drawing up proposals and all the paperwork that’s needed, but it’s a goal of mine to figure out a plan for how to do it. 

I strive to do my best because I know if I’m my best self that my kids will see that and also want to be their best selves. They are what give me hope and where I draw inspiration from. My son wants to produce music, he’s in the band and wants to write the music for the band as well. My daughter wants to be a teacher. My dreams for them are just to go to school and be successful in whatever way that means for them.

front-and-center-15-elsie-guaranteed-income-child-tax-credit-black-mothers-women-magnolia-mothers-trust-jackson-mississippi

While I don’t receive guaranteed income anymore, I have been getting the expanded child tax credit payments this year, which are similar. The payments have been really helpful in paying for all the dues my kids have—my daughter’s choir and band, my son’s band uniforms and fees, that’s $500 right there. He loves being in the band and I am committed to supporting him in that, so even when I wasn’t able to afford the dues, I’m grateful that his program allowed parents in that situation to fundraise. So I did fundraising projects to pay for those fees when I didn’t have the CTC—but it’s been nice though not to have to do that. And it’s also helped with the basics like just buying groceries.

While I don’t receive guaranteed income anymore, I have been getting the expanded child tax credit payments this year, which are similar. The payments have been really helpful in paying for all the dues my kids have—my daughter’s choir and band, my son’s band uniforms and fees, that’s $500 right there.

I was in the very first round of the Magnolia Mother’s Trust, which started three years ago. So it’s been about two years since I stopped getting the guaranteed income payments, but the program allowed me to do so much that’s still benefiting me now. I was able to move out of subsidized housing and into my own place, I was able to get a more reliable car, I did a little traveling with my kids—it allowed me to be able to provide better for them. My experience with the Trust taught me a lot: patience, improving my budgeting, focus.

My advice to moms currently in the program or ones coming into the program in the future is to stay focused on your goals, and what you want to get out of the program. That’s how I was able to do so much in just that one year.


Front and Center pieces are free to republish, under the following guidelines:

  • To ensure context isn’t lost, at the top of your reprint, include a line that reads: “Front and Center is a series of op-eds—published by Ms. magazine and created in partnership with the Magnolia Mother’s Trust—highlighting the success of Springboard to Opportunities’ Magnolia Mother’s Trust program, which this year will give $1,000 per month for 12 months to 100 families headed by Black women living in federally subsidized housing. The series aims to put front and center the voices of Black women who are affected most by the often-abstract policies currently debated at the national level.” (You can use editorial discretion to alter or shorten the text slightly.)
  • You may also republish the photographs included in this story.
  • If you share republished stories on social media, we’d appreciate being tagged in your posts. You can find Ms. on Twitter @MsMagazine, on Instagram @ms_magazine and on Facebook. Springboard to Opportunities is on Twitter @SpringboardToOp, on Instagram @springboard_to and on Facebook.

Have questions on the series? Read more here, and direct specific questions to Katie Fleischer at [email protected].


If you found this article helpful, please consider supporting our independent reporting and truth-telling for as little as $5 per month.

Up next:

About

Elsie is a mother of two who was part of the original cohort of the Magnolia Mother’s Trust, beginning in 2018. She works with the disabled and hopes to one day open her own group home.