Front and Center: ‘Politicians Who Believe Guaranteed Income Programs Discourage People From Working Are Wrong’

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 (MMT), 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.

My name is Michelle, I’m 33 years old and I live in a subsidized housing complex in Jackson, Mississippi.

I have two boys; one is 8 and the other is 6. They’re both in elementary school and they love games. Board games and anything that’s fun, just typical boys.

I’ve been working as a housekeeper for the last 10 years at HHS, a hospitality company that provides cleaning to different facilities. Right now I’m a housekeeper at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. It has its perks and it has its disadvantages, but it gets the bills paid.

I don’t mind cleaning—in fact, I’d like to have my own cleaning business. The barrier to accomplishing this right now is the fact that my children are young and I don’t want to be away 24/7, but it is something I’d like to pursue in the future. One of my goals while in the Magnolia Mother’s Trust program is to build up some savings so that we can start working towards moving out of our current apartment complex. 

Before becoming a recipient of MMT, I was pulling in about $1,200 a month. (Editor’s note: Mississippi’s minimum wage is $7.25 an hour.) It wasn’t enough to be able to take care of what I needed. And in order to pay extra expenses, I was picking up odd jobs at a maid service, just working for them part time to make some extra money. I was piecing it together as best I could.

It was hard because I was constantly trying to figure out what the most important things to pay for were and what I could put on the back burner. With growing children you’re always having to buy something.

(Photo courtesy of Springboard to Opportunities, art by Brandi Phipps)

My biggest monthly expense at the moment is my car note and the next most expensive bill is the price of food. I was unable to get food stamps the last time I applied because I made too much money, and now with MMT I’m definitely making too much. Groceries cost me about $500 a month and that’s just the minimum depending on what I need.

The politicians who believe programs like MMT discourage people from working are wrong. That money is an incentive. It allows us to take care of things that we weren’t able to get on a day-to-day basis before. For example, I needed work done on my truck; I was able to get that done. My kids’ shoes were too small and they needed new ones. Before MMT, I wouldn’t have been able to see that through for at least another month. There are so many of us who are living paycheck-to-paycheck. “Pillar to post,” like my grandma says—you never know what’s going to happen.

I wish benefits programs like SNAP and TANF would take all expenses into consideration and not just what you pay for rent, which is what they looked at in my case. We are blessed with low-income rent because of what I make, but these programs aren’t thinking about our other expenses: car payments, car insurance, and all the other things you need. You can’t get to work without a car. And if you don’t have car insurance, you’re going to get tickets. Then there are the expenses you have to pay out-of-pocket. At the end of the day it’s taking money out of the mouths of your children.

I’ve always had a good relationship with my kids, but MMT has allowed me to say “yes” more. Like this past weekend they wanted to go to Party Safari. So I was able to say, “Let me look into my account and see if I can pull out $100,” and maybe they can have a fun day or weekend. My son and I both have birthdays coming up and I told him we could plan something fun, maybe go out of town. I’ve never taken them out of town before.

One place I’m finding joy and hope is being able to sit in my home on the weekend and put things into perspective. Less wondering “where’s this gonna come from? Am I gonna have enough to do this?” Less brain fog, and more clarity.

Take Action

As House Republicans bring us closer and closer to a government shutdown, the voices of guaranteed income recipients are more important than ever. Instead of fighting to cut funding for anti-poverty programs like SNAP and WIC, lawmakers should be listening to those experiencing poverty and food insecurity—especially women of color who disproportionately face systemic economic barriers.

If you’re inspired by how guaranteed income has such a tangible impact on the lives of MMT moms, now is the perfect time to take action. Call or email your congressional offices and send a strong message that the child tax credit, SNAP, WIC, and other benefits programs must be protected and expanded in fiscal year 2024 funding bills, and that a federal guaranteed income program would uplift millions of low-income Americans.

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

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Michelle is the mother of two sons and has worked as a housekeeper at HHS for the past decade. She dreams of moving out of her current apartment complex and being able to open her own cleaning business.