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New Program Gives Low-Income Arlington Residents $500 a Month

(Updated at 11:35 a.m.) Dozens of Arlington residents are now receiving a supplemental income through a new pilot program.

The nonprofit Arlington Community Foundation, which oversees the outreach, will unconditionally give $500 a month to 200 low-income households for two years. Fifty have been enrolled so far, chosen at random from current Arlington County housing grant recipients.

“This new initiative equips families with funds that can be used for whatever is needed most in real time — paying off debt, pursuing education or employment goals, college savings for kids, or allowing parents more time with their children and less time away from home in a second job,” the foundation said in a news release.

Housing grants from Arlington’s Department of Human Services, part of the criteria for eligibility for the pilot program, are restricted to two-person households earning $43,860 or less, three-person households earning $49,343 or less, and four-person households earning $54,825 or less.

The foundation says the pilot further restricts participants to those at or below 30% of the area median income, which is $38,700 for a family of four.

“One participant, a single mother who works full time, says this assistance will give her the much needed breathing room to finish her GED and attend nursing school,” the foundation says.

The county partnered with the foundation for the initiative, dubbed Arlington’s Guarantee. Participants will have access to one-on-one coaching, and a team of experts will be monitoring participants’ health, wellbeing and financial stability.

People can donate to the fund covering the pilot, which the foundation sees as a resource for future policy outreach and philanthropy.

“Arlington’s Guarantee is an opportunity for donors to support a pilot that holistically and unconditionally promotes power, dignity and belonging for families in Arlington,” the foundation said. All administrative costs have been covered by a grant from the Kresge Foundation, so 100% of what is contributed to this fund will go directly into the hands of people in our community who need it.”

More from the press release:

24,700 people, or about 10,000 households in Arlington, make under 30% of the area median income (AMI), or $38,700 for a family of four. These working low income families rely on a combination of earned income, public benefits, and community support to survive. With even a minor rise in earnings, these families can lose their eligibility for subsidies for health care, food, child care, transportation, and housing, meaning the worker has to refuse raises and promotions that could ultimately leave their family worse off. Arlington’s Guarantee has secured local and state agency commitments to ensure the monthly cash payments do not affect benefits and subsidies eligibility. In addition to $500/month and protection from benefits loss, Arlington Guarantee supports the participants with access to trained mobility teams and one-on-one coaching. 

Similar tests of Universal Basic Income-like programs — though more targeted and on a smaller scale than UBI — have been rolling out elsewhere in the D.C. area and across the country. In nearby Alexandria, the city plans to use $3 million in American Rescue Plan money to provide $500 a month to 150 low-income households, starting on Nov. 1.

According to research conducted on a similar program in California, participants were more likely to land full-time jobs, pay down debt and report better emotional wellbeing.

Photo by Pepi Stojanovski on Unsplash

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