I’ve heard about families receiving cash payments to help move themselves and their communities out of poverty. What are these payments?
Are San Antonio families receiving cash payments?
These cash payments are money that families receive on a regular basis that they can choose to spend however they want, with no strings attached. The H.E. Butt Foundation has recently partnered with San Antonio foundations, nonprofits, business owners, and community leaders to explore these direct cash payments, or investments, with an organization called UpTogether.
When families join UpTogether, they have the opportunity to receive extra cash with no strings attached. UpTogether invests in their members directly because of the belief that families know what’s best for themselves, trusting them to spend the money in ways that will help them get ahead.
UpTogether’s members lead busy lives as community leaders, activists, family members, and caregivers, so they make the process of becoming a member as easy and seamless as possible. All members have to do is visit the UpTogether website and join.
How do families benefit by receiving cash?
Yes! In November 2020 UpTogether launched a pilot in San Antonio, where 1,000 eligible households received a total cash investment of $5,100, distributed over 27 months. In addition to the cash payments, families received support through UpTogether’s online platform, which helps members create powerful online communities that strengthen relationships between neighbors and build much-needed support systems.
Since UpTogether opened its doors, they have invested more than $135 million in over 200,000 people living at or below the federal poverty line, and during the pandemic when so many Texans were in freefall, they quickly put $10 million directly in the hands of people who needed it most.
Besides the cash, are families receiving any other support?
UpTogether has a proven track record of distributing money throughout communities, and they have seen how UpTogether members’ financial situations have transformed after receiving cash payments. Families know best what they need and cash gives them flexibility to address needs that other types of social programs and support may not necessarily cover.
Everyone deserves the breathing room and mental space to actually plan for their futures, and with extra cash, UpTogether trusts that their members can make the best decision to build their businesses, pay for college courses to jumpstart their careers, boost their savings, or pay for basic home repairs, school supplies, and books for their kids.
Data UpTogether gathered shows that before COVID, on average, after two years of engaging with UpTogether, members:
- Increased their monthly savings account balance from $311 to $976 and increased their monthly income by 23%
- Increased retirement investment account from $602 to $1,256 and increased total liquid assets from $759 to $2,396
- Increased monthly business income by 77% (from $164 to $290) with 66% of new family-owned business activity
- Reported their children had excellent, good, or improvement in grades (88%)
The flexibility of cash also improves people’s mental and emotional wellbeing. According to a study conducted by UpTogether, the VELA Education Fund, Methodist Healthcare Ministries of South Texas, Inc., and the Walton Family Foundation, UpTogether members who received cash saw improvements to their mental health and emotional stability, helping them focus on their goals and children’s education rather than how to keep the lights on.
Even through the pandemic, member-formed communities stayed strong. According to the same study, a majority of members shared that they received the support they needed from their communities all or almost all the time.
If families receive cash, does that mean they won’t receive any other types of support?
UpTogether also provides an online platform for people to create powerful online communities that strengthen relationships and give members a much-needed support system. The platform lets its members create groups where they can offer words of affirmation, share rides or childcare, and find meaningful ways to give back to their communities. The platform works like an ad-free and secure social media site, but exclusively for goal setting, skill-sharing, and resource pooling.
UpTogether recently conducted a study about how members are using the platform and they found that families with the lowest incomes rely on community groups the most, showing that people with the fewest resources are banding together to lift one another up.
In San Antonio alone, members have created or joined nearly 1,000 different groups to share their expertise and skills, truly making a difference in each other’s lives. Texans are providing transportation, food, emotional support, caregiving, money, physical labor, tutoring, and even housing to other members of the UpTogether community. By strengthening social ties and connections, members are also connecting with one another to find new jobs and springboard their careers.
Has giving cash directly to individuals ever been tried in the United States?
Cash investment programs do not replace vital existing social support programs, but rather supplement them.
Pre-existing social support programs are important when addressing our most important needs, like food, housing, health care, etc. However, there are other individual, urgent aspects of daily life that these systems do not address, like transportation needs, school expenses, debts, and many, many more.
For families to thrive, we need to get cash in their hands while also accessing the existing network of social support programs.
Where can I learn more about UpTogether and their approach of cash, community and choice?
Cash investment, or guaranteed income, pilot programs are increasing in frequency nationwide, with many completed, ongoing, or upcoming projects across the county and more announced every month. These pilots are not niche or coastal initiatives but deeply American opportunities to address problems around poverty that have persisted in this nation for generations.
Federal programs are also proving the benefits of unrestricted cash. The COVID-19 stimulus payments and the expanded Child Tax Credit show that money flowing directly into people’s pockets eases financial strain and improves wellbeing.
An analysis from researchers at the University of Michigan found that stimulus checks significantly reduced hunger and financial instability by 40%, and reported adverse mental health symptoms fell by 20%.
The expanded Child Tax Credit, a federal program that gives unrestricted monthly payments to 90% of families with children, is expected to dramatically reduce child poverty and anxiety. According to researchers at Columbia University’s Center on Poverty and Social Policy, the Child Tax Credit is expected to reduce child poverty by an astounding 45 percent — from 14 percent to 7 and a half percent. Additionally, a single Child Tax Credit payment reduced financial anxiety for 56% of families who received it.
Individuals and families receiving unrestricted cash payments spend it on basic needs and life-changing resources like school supplies, books, groceries, and utilities. Data from the Census Household Pulse survey shows that families primarily spent their recent Child Tax Credit payments on basic needs.
To keep up to date on UpTogether, follow them on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube. You can also explore all of the content on their website.