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.
Kimberly first shared her story with Ms. in 2022. Since then, she’s struggled to keep her financial footing in the wake of challenges like a car accident and losing her SNAP benefits.
My name is Kimberly and I’m 36 years old. I finished receiving funds from the Magnolia Mother’s Trust in April 2022. My income has remained about the same since I was in the program. I’m still at the same job and I’m happy with it. It’s convenient and they’re very understanding—but I feel like there’s still room to grow, because if it’s not making ends meet, then you have to make a decision. When the MMT funding stopped, I had to fill in my income, so I now pick up work doing Uber or DoorDash.
During the program, I was in a car accident. The extra $1,000 a month was helping me with the cost of paying for a replacement car while still having to pay off the old one that was totaled. This was part of the reason that when the program ended, I still had debt. Adjusting to not having the funds was financially challenging because I wanted to stay on top of paying my bills on time, so I had to find other resources.
Even though we’re working and making money, it’s still not enough. We are single moms. We have so many responsibilities, and our kids are going without.
The program provided such a huge relief. It was a weight off my family’s shoulders. Everything wasn’t so tight, we could breathe. My kids thought we were rich because we were able to do things that we weren’t usually able to do—it allowed us to take trips together and I was able to take them out to places they like to eat. I was able to buy them things that they needed and help with football expenses. We could take a deep breath. I felt like “okay, I’ve got this extra money coming in, I can save now.”
Kids don’t necessarily understand what the bills are and that everything requires money, but my boys were definitely happier. “Hey, Mom can do this without saying ‘no,’ or ‘maybe next time.’”
It’s hard to do those extra things when your income is mainly going toward your bills, and now it’s a fight to be able to do them again. I’m trying to keep them on the football team now, as well as other things, but after the program, a lot of stuff just went away.
I would like to ask the politicians who are making the laws around SNAP benefits and similar aid if these programs are really for the people. It doesn’t seem as if they are—because the people are still suffering. The people are still hungry. You need to raise the cap on these programs, because even though we’re working and making money, it’s still not enough. We are single moms. We have so many responsibilities, and our kids are going without.
I’m no longer on SNAP (food stamps), so our refrigerator is pretty empty. The last time I applied for SNAP, they told me I made too much to qualify. So, I’m not making enough at work to be able to care for my people and at the same time I can’t get food stamps? It doesn’t make any sense. What are they looking at? I guess they don’t care about our bills, or our debt, they think, “Y’all deal with that.”
If a program like SNAP was actually designed for us, the size of income wouldn’t need to be so low. I once believed that $16 was a lot of money until I started making it and realized it is still not enough. They really need to look at everything, not just our gross income, because we don’t even bring all that home. And what we do bring home goes toward rent. And just like the Rental Assistance Program, as soon as I’m making a little bit more money—boom, I’m paying the full amount of rent. So how can we ever save? How can we ever do better for ourselves?
Give us a timeframe. Like “okay, I know she’s making this amount of money, but let’s give her two years to save and then she’ll be in a good space.” During the program one of my goals was to save for a down payment on a home. But I wasn’t able to do that. I’m still reaching for those goals.
The last time I applied for SNAP, they told me I made too much to qualify. So, I’m not making enough at work to be able to care for my people, and at the same time I can’t get food stamps? It doesn’t make any sense.
Even though it’s still hard for us, I find joy in being with family. We’re a family of single moms. My dad passed and so my mom is a single mom—though even when he was here, I always felt like my mom was a single mom. So I find joy that we, as single moms, can still get together and show our kids that we can make things happen for them. We try to take them on at least one trip a year. I find joy in being able to do something that puts a smile on my kids’ faces.
Finally, I want to say how thankful I am that I was a part of MMT and that I’m still a part of the Springboard family. I’ll take any chance to be heard. I pray that this message reaches the right group of individuals who see that we need to step up. We need to be better. We need to do better.
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.