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Scott unveils new details on guaranteed income pilot program

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott announces the Baltimore Young Families Success Fund. Credit: Sarah Y. Kim/WYPR
Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott announces the Baltimore Young Families Success Fund. Credit: Sarah Y. Kim/WYPR

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott announced details Wednesday about the Baltimore Young Families Success Fund, an upcoming guaranteed income pilot program that he referred to in his State of the City address earlier this month.

The program will provide 200 young parents between the ages of 18 and 24 monthly cash payments of $1000 for two years.

The mayor allocated $4.8 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds for the program.

“Almost a year ago, I promised that I would implement a guaranteed income pilot program to support our most in-need residents in our most historically disinvested communities,” Scott said. “COVID has made that promise all the more important.”

He said low-income families can use their payments for whatever they need to “get back on their feet,” including food, housing, and other necessities.

“This is fundamentally about putting our families in a position to succeed,” Scott said.

Applications will open online only at 6 a.m. May 2 and close just before midnight May 9. Parents will be picked through a randomized lottery and must be Baltimore City residents whose income is at or below 300% of the federal poverty level to qualify.

Those who are eligible but without digital access can go to application assistant sites across the city. For those who still have difficulty getting to those sites, Scott said those in charge of the program will “always figure out ways to work around that.”

Robin McKinney, co-founder CEO of CASH Campaign of Maryland, a partner for the program, said recipients will probably get their first monthly payments between mid-July and August.

“We want to make sure everyone that's in fully understands what the opportunity is,” she said.

Part of the program’s purpose, McKinney said, is to get evidence – in part through surveys and interviews of applicants – that will demonstrate the necessity of unconditional payments.

“Families are the experts on what they need in order to get ahead,” she said. “We need to show that policies like this are important.”

Of the 200 applicants chosen in the lottery, 130 will go into a group for “quantitative surveys and qualitative interviews,” and 70 will be selected for a storytelling cohort to share their experiences with guaranteed income.

Of the applicants who did not get selected to receive payments, 156 will be chosen for a ‘control group’ and will get incentives to participate in research activities.

“We imagine that there'll be some people, who for a variety of reasons choose not to participate,” McKinney said. “We'll be getting replacements during that process.”

In addition to the CASH Campaign of Maryland, the city is partnering with Steady, a tech platform co founded by Shaquille O’Neal, and Mayors for a Guaranteed Income, a national network of mayors advocating for guaranteed incomes. Guaranteed income projects have cropped up in other parts of the country, including Stockton, Calif.

Sarah Y. Kim is WYPR’s health and housing reporter. Kim is WYPR's Report for America corps member, and Anthony Brandon Fellow. Kim joined WYPR as a 2020-2021 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The GroundTruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. Now in her second year as an RFA corps member, Kim is based in Baltimore City.