The Case for a Guaranteed Income for Single Moms: ‘Everybody Needs a Little Extra Cushion, Especially When You Have Kids’

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 Seantel, I’m 27 years old and I live in Jackson, Mississippi.

I have three children; two boys and a girl. My eldest is 12, my daughter is 6 and my youngest is 2. I’m currently single and I’m not looking! Nobody is checking me out and I’m not checking anybody out. It’s peaceful.

My last job was working at a factory in Michigan. I liked it somewhat, but I was working seven days a week for the majority of the day. It was hard to get a day off, but the pay made up for it so I can’t complain. It got me to where I needed to be. 

When I came to Jackson last March to sign my lease, I felt like I was helping my dream. I never felt safe at my apartment in Michigan because there was so much violence going on. My next-door neighbor was hit in a shootout and that was just too close for comfort. I knew it was on me to make this move happen, so I went and found a nice little factory job that paid me well. I saved and got everything that I needed to make my move. I was concerned about how moving to a whole new state was gonna pan out. But when I found out I got Magnolia Mother’s Trust, I was so excited. Well, at first I was skeptical, but then I googled it and thought, “They’re onto something!” Being a part of the program has relieved a lot of stress. 

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

Before MMT started, I was making just enough to take care of basic household necessities. So when any extra expenses would come up, I’d have to use my savings.

Children are expensive, and when I was in Michigan, I got tired of not having a cushion to do the extra little stuff. Working on saving has been a process, a learning journey. You really gotta be grounded to do it. When MMT presented me with the opportunity of receiving either $1000 a month, or $700 and have $300 put into savings, I chose $700. I knew that would give me another boost in the long run. Part of that savings is going into my kids’ college funds. 

When you have kids, $700 will go quick. $1000 will go quick! There are a lot of single mothers. Programs like this help supplement, they give mothers a cushion.

I was working seven days a week for the majority of the day. It was hard to get a day off.

My biggest monthly expense right now is my phone bill because it changes every month. But the price of everything has gone up. The price for cereal is crazy! The rising prices affect my expenses and how I budget. I just make sure to get the necessities, and whatever we don’t need I don’t worry about. 

I recently applied for SNAP benefits, but whether or not I’m approved, I’m still in a position where we’ll be straight because of the extra income I have from MMT. I’ve really learned that worrying about stuff you have no control over will stress you out completely. It’s too much. If I can’t control it, I’m not gonna worry about it. Right now I’m fine and my kids are fine and that’s all I can ask for. Now I’m not worried about what’s going to happen next week or how I’m going to do this next month. It’s a real stress reliever to be able to be prepared for whatever may come up. 

My main goals during this year of receiving funds is to find regular schools for my kids that offer them opportunities. And next year, or the year after, I’d like to find a house with a yard so they can feel comfortable. Something that’s ours. 

If I could get any job now it would be a work-from-home job because my son isn’t able to talk as well as he should, so I’m not big on sending him to daycare. In the future though, I hope to be a successful business woman. To do that I need to find the right group of people to help point me in the right direction. I’m looking for mentorship and advice. I need to network and learn more about what I need to do to get a business up and going. 

While in MMT, I’ve been able to take my kids out to different restaurants and activities. My kids are such foodies! They’ll be on YouTube watching people go to all these different restaurants. Now that we’ve moved, we’re near some of these places. They love Waffle House. We’ve been to the Chick-fil-A. We went bowling, I took them to the trampoline park, and we do things here. On Easter we dyed eggs and we all painted together. 

When I found out I got Magnolia Mother’s Trust … at first I was skeptical, but then I googled it and thought, ‘They’re onto something!’ Being a part of the program has relieved a lot of stress. 

Right now I’m finding joy in the idea that whatever you go through, it won’t last forever. It’s up to you to make a difference, to change things, to be happy, to find some peace in the turmoil. There’s a lot that you can do to make yourself feel good about your situation. You shouldn’t worry about what other people might think and just do what’s best for you and keep pushing, and try to keep a good mindset.  

I’m so happy to be a part of this program. I hope to see it grow. I hope to see more single mothers benefit from it because there are a lot of opportunities outside of just the money. I think it should be a standard all across the world. Mothers do so much every single day. Everybody needs a little extra cushion, especially when you have kids. I can only imagine how many people wish they had a helping hand and don’t get it, or wish they had family and don’t have it. Magnolia Mother’s Trust is like a little family. It is really a good program. 


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 kfleischer@msmagazine.com.

About

Seantel recently relocated to Mississippi from Michigan where she worked long hours at a factory job in order to save money for her family’s move. She’s currently seeking a remote job so she can spend more time with her children. She is a recipient of one year of guaranteed income from the Magnolia Mother's Trust.