In Series ‘Front and Center,’ Moms Share How Guaranteed Income Changed Their Lives

Back for its third year, Front and Center is a groundbreaking Ms. series that offers first-person accounts of Black mothers living in Jackson, Miss., receiving a guaranteed income.

(Photos courtesy of Springboard to Opportunities; art by Brandi Phipps)

Welcome to a new year of Front and Center, a series highlighting the voices of low-income Black women receiving a guaranteed income of $1,000 per month for 12 months. This partnership with Springboard to Opportunities about recipients of the Magnolia Mother’s Trust (MMT) centers a unique perspective often left out of mainstream economic policy news: women and their families. In Front and Center, mothers speak on their struggles, their children, their work, their relationships, and their dreams for the future, and how a federal guaranteed income program could change their lives.

First launched in 2018, MMT is about to enter its fifth cohort, bringing the number of moms served to more than 400 and making it the longest-running guaranteed income program in the country. It’s also the first program that specifically targets low-income Black mothers. The initiative demonstrates how unrestricted cash could be a crucial component of the social safety net provided by the federal government. 

Beginning tomorrow, then twice monthly, you’ll hear directly from MMT moms on how the year of guaranteed income has impacted their life. We’ll hear from MMT alumni, as well as women in the current cohort, who will share their goals for the year and hopes for their future. 

I use the Trust money to help take care of my kids. I can get them clothes and shoes, and we can go places now. We can do fun things. We can take trips.


Our mission is more urgent than ever: Last year, after pandemic-era supplements like the child tax credit ran out, the U.S. experienced the largest one-year jump in poverty on record. These economic burdens are shouldered disproportionately by women, especially single mothers, who are saddled with systemic issues like gender and racial pay gaps and care responsibilities.

All the while, conservative lawmakers are doing their best to defund anti-poverty programs and add harsh work requirements to SNAP and other government benefits, making it even harder for struggling Americans to access the social safety net.

How a Federal Guaranteed Income Could Change Lives

Women of color are more likely to experience poverty and food insecurity, and face barriers to accessing stable housing—which is why many believe guaranteed income is a critical step towards economic justice.

Unlike universal basic income, guaranteed income is targeted at the groups that need it most. It involves monthly payments of unrestricted cash, and is designed to be a minimum “income floor” that ensures nobody is forced to live in poverty.

MMT centers equity by providing low-income Black mothers in Jackson, Miss., with 12 months of guaranteed income. Unlike traditional welfare programs, there’s no unnecessary bureaucracy or restrictions on how the money can be used—so the moms are able to decide for themselves how best to support their families and invest in their futures. Across the country, guaranteed income pilots like MMT are finding that recipients are overwhelmingly using their payments for basic needs like groceries, housing and transportation.

I worked through the whole pandemic. I didn’t get any unemployment or anything, so it was great to receive the stimulus checks and the expanded child tax credit last year.


It’s clear these programs work: In 2021, the nationwide expanded child tax credit (CTC) had a similar monthly payment structure, leading to a 46 percent decline in child poverty. But with a select few in Congress standing in the way of a renewed CTC, and no federal income program on the horizon, families will continue to face devastating choices between putting food on the table and keeping the lights on. 

Take Action

If you’re inspired by how guaranteed income has such a tangible impact on MMT recipients’ lives, now is the perfect time to take action. Congress is preparing to pass critical funding bills this fall, and they need to hear from Ms. readers.

Call or email your congressional offices, and send a strong message that the child tax credit, SNAP, and other benefits programs must be protected and expanded in this year’s tax bills, and that a federal guaranteed income program would uplift millions of low-income Americans.

I carry a really heavy load as a single mom. … So it helped ease my burden a lot when I started getting the monthly child tax credits last year. … There are just some things I can’t afford without that extra support.


Two Years Since Receiving a Guaranteed Income, Sequaya Says the Investment Still Helps Her Family ‘Weather the Storm’

Sequaya first shared her story with Ms. in 2021. We checked in with her recently to see how she’s doing.

My name is Sequaya Coleman and I was a member of the Magnolia Mother’s Trust 2020 cohort. Since last receiving funds in February 2021, my income has changed for two reasons: a job switch and having a baby. 

It was challenging when the program came to an end. I lost my job a few months after. I knew having another child would impact my income because I would need to buy extra things like diapers.

I was shocked by how much the price of things had changed since having my first child nearly a decade ago. It started to feel like everything was falling to pieces—like I was trying to pick up a piece of paper and put it back together after it was torn. But I was determined, and in due time everything prevailed—thanks to skills I learned in the MMT program that helped me weather the storm. It’s safe to say that I’m now doing okay. 

My favorite skill I learned in the program is meditation. I just never did things for myself before. Most parents know that you don’t even get bathroom time. My child will just bust right in—”mommy mommy mommy!” In meditation we learned to take that five, or even two, minutes of peace for ourselves. It’s something I still do to this day. Whether I have a babysitter, or it’s after the kids go to sleep, or even just in the bathroom. They know when the door is closed do not come in—especially during bathtime. If they hear the rain sound from the meditation app, they know I’m taking a mommy timeout, a wind down, a refresh, a regroup. And then I come back. The program helped me establish this practice and it’s truly what I value most. 

One of the other surprising benefits of the program is that I found myself being more open to people. I’m an introvert. I love people, but I’d rather be in my own space. Springboard gave us a platform to share space and meals with other women who are going through similar things. It allowed us to be so open and to share whatever we wanted. I found that very helpful because it’s not something I would’ve normally done on my own. I mean, there are family members who probably don’t even know half of the stuff that I’ve shared with these other women. It really opened me up to being more social, and I feel like I gained a real family. I have long-lasting friendships with the people that I’ve met through this program—whether it’s high-powered people, or just regular people like me. I still talk to these people on a daily basis, like, “Hey girl, you want to go get a bite to eat or something to drink?” I never expected to make friends in this program. 

When MMT started, I thought, “They’re gonna make us pay this money back.” I thought it was like a payday loan. But once it began and we learned how everything actually worked, I thought, “Maybe God sends people to you for certain reasons.”

At the time I was accepted, I was in a dark place. I was working seven days a week and paying a sitter to care for my daughter when school wasn’t in. It was a lot. This program boosted my confidence in knowing that as a mother I can provide for my children, rather than having to borrow or feel burdened down, or laying awake at night worrying about a bill due the next day.

I don’t receive TANF but I do receive SNAP. One of my biggest principles before I had children was I never wanted to rely on government systems. But then you have kids and have to be an adult. Reality hits and you have no choice.

There’s so much paperwork with these welfare programs. Every six months, you have to report this, sign this, recertify this. And what lawmakers and politicians don’t know is when you all have us doing all this extra paperwork for SNAP benefits, we’re just worried about eating.

With MMT it was like, “Yes, I don’t have to worry that I can’t wash my kids clothes because I don’t have extra $2 to do it.” If I need insurance for my child, I can pay for healthcare, I don’t have to worry about dealing with Mississippi Medicaid. I can move freely without the government breathing down my neck. You just feel better when you can do it on your own.

To the lawmakers and politicians who think programs like the MMT discourage people from working, I would say that is simply not true. I would tell them to educate themselves before they speak. Get to know what this program is all about.

I worked the entire time I had MMT. Most of the 2020 cohort did. You have to keep going because MMT is going to end, we’re not receiving it for a lifetime. Politicians could be focusing on so much more than worrying about whether or not someone’s being lazy. And if they helped, (because I know MMT is not funded by them) maybe they could see what it does, what it’s allowed people in poverty to have for ourselves.

One of my biggest goals I wanted to achieve during my time in MMT was to move out of the location I was in to a new place, and I was able to do that.

Another goal was to begin to save for a house. That’s harder to do. First you have to get your credit score in order, then realtors and things of that nature. So I had to just focus on immediate needs for my home and child. But I still hope to move forward with that dream in the future. 

I find joy everyday in my children, my children, my children. Children give you motivation. They keep you younger. They also give you gray hair! But at the same time, they’re lovable. They are life, and they give you life. I don’t give up because of my children. I can’t give them everything they want, but I can give them a decent life. As long as I can provide for them, I’m happy.

Up next:


Katie Fleischer (she/they) is a Ms. editorial assistant working on the Front and Center series and Keeping Score.