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.


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Katie Fleischer is a recent graduate of Smith College and a Ms. editorial assistant working on the Front and Center series.