- Philadelphia is launching a guaranteed income program for pregnant people.
- A pilot group of 250 people will receive $1,000 a month for up to 18 months.
- The city has the highest infant mortality rate of the top ten most populated cities in the US.
An extra $1,000 a month can go a long way. Pregnant people in Philadelphia are about to find out just how much it can help.
The city’s health department announced it will oversee a trial program beginning next year to provide 250 pregnant people with $1,000 a month. Payments will start in the person’s third month of pregnancy and continue until the baby’s first birthday. It’s an effort to combat racial disparities in infant mortality, the health department said.
Guaranteed income pilot programs like this have been on the rise throughout the US over the last few years, with many of them fueled by federal pandemic aid. Many of the programs, which tend to serve low-income households, have reported that individuals and families are better off following their cash influx. Programs often target vital times in recipients’ lives, following unemployment or health crises and help some pay for transportation, bills, and even acquire long-term housing after becoming homeless.
Programs like Magnolia Mother’s Trust in Jackson, Mississippi focus on Black mothers specifically because they’re often in a financially vulnerable position. And last year, California launched the country’s first state-funded guaranteed income program, which serves low-income pregnant people, as well as former foster youth transitioning into adulthood.
Called the Philly Joy Bank, the Philadelphia program will offer no-strings-attached funding in the vein of other guaranteed income programs. The premise of the program rests on research showing that more money means lower infant mortality rates. One study from 2018 showed that states that received money from the federal government between 2004 and 2013 to “further the well-being of its citizens” saw decreased infant mortality.
“Infant mortality in Philadelphia is a solvable crisis,” Health commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole said in a press release. “We know that being able to better support pregnant people and new parents helps keep babies alive. As the poorest big city in the country, this is not always easy, especially in areas of the city that are being crushed by generational poverty and systemic racism.”
Black infants are almost four times as likely to die from complications related to low birthweight as compared to non-Hispanic white infants, according to the Centers for Disease Control. And of the top ten most populated cities, Philadelphia has the highest rate of infant mortality in the first year of life, the government said.
Additionally, a recent study shows that growing up poor affects the way a child’s brain develops. An experiment called Baby’s First Years providing poor mothers with cash stipends for the first year of children’s lives found that having more money altered infant brain activity in ways that suggest stronger cognitive development, the researchers told Insider last year.
“Giving cash during and immediately after pregnancy is a promising approach to addressing these racial disparities and improving birth outcomes,” the health department said, adding that program participants will also be eligible for support like financial counseling and lactation support if they want to opt into it.
The city’s mayor, Jim Kenney, also used the announcement to invoke a frequent Democratic refrain in the national abortion debate: that in targeting welfare programs, Republicans don’t care about children after they’re born.
“That’s pro-life,” Kenney said of the initiative this week. Kenney was a staunch critic of the majority-conservative Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade last year.