Madison Forward Fund Providing Direct Assistance to Low-Income Pilot Program Recipients
The Madison Forward Fund, a year-long guaranteed income experimental program, has distributed the first of twelve monthly payments to low-income families. The guaranteed income is a monthly payment of $500 given directly to 155 households for 12 months. It is unconditional, with no strings attached and no work requirements. The program is founded on the belief that Madison families deserve a basic level of income to support fundamental needs, and that people experiencing financial scarcity are best positioned to make decisions regarding their household needs.
The Madison Forward Fund received approximately 3000 applications from eligible Madison families during the application period. A total of 155 families were randomly selected from that applicant pool to receive the monthly payments, illustrating that the need in Madison far exceeds the capacity for the pilot program.
New data aggregated from 20 other guaranteed income pilot programs from around the country show that recipients of direct assistance payments overwhelmingly spend their funds on basic needs, such as food, household goods and transportation. Other expenses included utilities, loan repayments, medical expenses and tuition. Many recipients in these programs have income at or slightly above the poverty line, so often don’t qualify for other government benefits, but don’t have enough income to meet their family’s needs.
“Having a guaranteed income could open up so many doors for people who are facing turbulent times,” said Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway. “My hope is that a growing group of mayors will lead the way on educating people about the concept, and engage in pilot programs to demonstrate that households really do make wise choices and are best positioned to navigate their way out of poverty.”
Dozens of direct cash assistance programs, such as the Madison Forward Fund, have started recently with the goals of supporting financial security and economic mobility for low-income community members. This type of program is intended to augment existing social safety net programs. Ensuring a basic level of financial security for Madison residents is essential in the context of rising inflation, high child care costs and stagnant wages. Other direct assistance programs, including the Child Tax Credit, have been shown to help families maintain financial stability.
Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway and staff at the City of Madison are partnering with Mayors for a Guaranteed Income, Total Administrative Services Corporation (TASC), the Institute for Research on Poverty at UW–Madison, the Give Back Foundation, and the Center for Guaranteed Income Research at the University of Pennsylvania to implement the Madison Forward Fund. This program is advised by a Task Force of community leaders from across Madison.
Payments to selected families are being administered by TASC, a Wisconsin-based third party benefits administrator. Each family receives a debit card with funds deposited each month. “TASC is honored to serve as the administrator of these valued funds. With TASC’s endless aisle of benefits, we are able to help ensure that Madison families are able to use the funds needed to take care of their families,” said Patti Rashke, TASC Managing Trustee.
The Madison Forward Fund is also designed as a research study to better understand the impact that monthly payments have on recipient financial security and wellbeing. Program recipients will have the option to complete surveys periodically throughout the program. The same survey data will be collected from a separate pool of applicants who were randomly selected to participate in the research, but who will not receive the monthly payments, so outcomes from both groups can be compared. These data will be collected and analyzed by the Center for Guaranteed Income Research at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy & Practice with support from the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University Wisconsin-Madison in order to build evidence regarding the efficacy of guaranteed income programs.
Eligibility criteria for the program include: living in the city of Madison; having at least one child age 17 years or younger living at home; and household income under 200% of the Federal Poverty Line. The primary applicant was required to be 18 years of age or older.
The Madison Forward Fund is providing $930,000 dollars in direct cash assistance to Madison families, funded entirely by non-taxpayer dollars, provided by generous private donors. The full list of donors includes: Mayors for a Guaranteed Income, Roots & Wings Foundation, UW Health, CUNA Mutual Foundation, Madison Gas & Electric Foundation, the TASC Family Foundation, American Family Insurance Dreams Foundation, Alliant Energy Foundation, and PRL Keystone Foundation. The City of Madison is providing in-kind support for staffing and community outreach. Additionally, the City was awarded a Mobilizing Communities for a Just Response (MC4JR) grant from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, which is supporting administrative costs, staffing and community outreach. No City tax dollars are being used to directly support Madison Forward Fund costs.
Updates and additional information about the Madison Forward Fund are available at MadisonForwardFund.wisc.edu
Further questions can be directed to the program manager, Blake Roberts Crall, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 608-515-8047.
- Blake Roberts Crall, 608-515-8047, email@example.com