Pivoting Out of Poverty: The Economic Impact
A 3 On Your Side Special Report gives an update on a guaranteed income program that started in Jackson
JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - It seems too good to be true, but a program that started in Mississippi - right here in Jackson - has now spread to other areas across the nation.
Magnolia Mother’s Trust gives African American mother’s living in poverty $1,000 dollars a month for a year with no strings attached and no taxpayer money.
3 On Your Side first told you about this guaranteed income program three years ago, and we now give you an update on the success of the program and whether it really works.
“When you’re on a program, there’s a stigma that comes with it. That’s what people don’t know. People feel like, you know, we’re welfare recipients and [that] we just... we don’t want any better,” Tamara Ware said.
Ware says nothing could be further from the truth.
“Some of us we really do work really hard. We’re just stuck in that spot right then,” she said.
Ware participated in the program last year. Since that time, she has moved into a home with her three daughters.
“It really taught me how to budget and that’s one thing I can honestly say that I got from that,” she explained. “I never knew how to before then.”
Tiyonda Kelly is the mother of two who says she was stressed out and struggling.
”It was very depressing, like my son was born preemie. He had chronic lung disease, he was born in two pounds. So I couldn’t work because I had to be there with him,” Kelly said.
Not working put her behind and deeply in debt. Kelly says Magnolia Mother’s Trust has turned her life and the lives of her children around.
“I couldn’t work I lost my car and everything,” Kelly said.
Kelly says receiving the $1,000 a month in guaranteed income has helped her pay off the debt and rebuild her credit. She is hoping to buy a home.
“It really helped me a lot. Because I got a car, I started getting more hours, you know, everything started falling in place. And I feel like they got me to a point where if they you know, when they do leave, I could be able to do it now,” Kelly stated.
Now in a home, Ware says Magnolia Mother’s Trust came at just the right time in her life during the COVID-19 Pandemic.
“Without that program I don’t know if my mindset would have changed. Yes I’ve always wanted a house but I don’t know if I would have that umph to do it,” the mother said.
Ware explains she thought the program was too good to be true.
“I’ve never been picked for anything in my life, and that was shocking,” Ware stated. “Like, even when they called, I was like ‘stop playing.’ I didn’t even think it was them because I didn’t know their number. But I was like, ‘oh, somebody’s playing with me again.’ But they were like ‘no seriously, you were one that was chosen.’ I just really didn’t know what the gimmick was behind it. I was like, ‘so we don’t have to do nothing for this?’”
The mothers are chosen to participate by lottery and live in four low income housing facilities in Jackson: Commonwealth Village, Lincoln Garden, The Village and Northwoods.
Magnolia Mother’s Trust started in 2018. That year, 20 mothers participated. In 2020, 110; in 2021 and 2022, 100 Moms. In just three years over 320 Moms have been helped with Guaranteed Income.
Aisha Nyandoro helped initiate Magnolia Mother’s Trust and started the program in the Mississippi.
“We have been a steady beat for the communities that we operate in, really providing that financial arm and that economic security that so many families truly needed in order to have sustainable, in order to be sustained, and not feel the economic pressures that so many of us felt, especially at the height of the pandemic in 2020,” said Nyandoro.
The program has been so successful it is spreading across the country.
“I think in the last three years, there have been a lot of conversations about guaranteed income, there are over 100 Guaranteed Income pilots now happening in various parts of the country,” Nyandoro explained. “But, it really does allow you to operate in a space of dreaming and possibilities. Because you’re taking away this scarcity.”
“I think we underestimate how truly stressful it is when you are constantly thinking about how you’re going to survive day to day or month to month,” Nyandoro continued. “So, by providing the guaranteed income of $1,000 a month for 12 months, we’re giving families that breathing room and in having that breathing room, they truly can plan and think about the future.”
The participants we talked with say the program is about more than money.
“If you’re gonna be in it don’t just be in it for the finances, be in it for all the resources that you can get out of,” Ware said. “If you need a therapist, get that out of it. If you need help parenting get that out of it, you know, like use all the resources you can.”
”I still work 7 days a week. I feel like it’s gonna be better because it really taught me to manage money more,” Kelly said. “And, you know, I think it’s gonna be pretty much the same with me because I work still.”
“I would just tell everyone look at me now. I started from the bottom, now I’m here,” Ware stated.
Even with the great success of Magnolia Mother’s Trust, Nyandoro says there is still so much work to do.
“No one wants to live in poverty. I don’t know a single mother that is financially vulnerable that enjoys that status of being financially vulnerable. And this myth of boot straps and individuals not wanting to work,” Nyandoro said. “Those are lies that we tell ourselves because we don’t want to do the hard work of changing our policies.”
None of the money comes from you, the taxpayers. Philanthropic donations provide the money.
“It is all philanthropic support. Most of our philanthropic support comes from outside of the state. So we have very generous donors who see what it is that we’re doing, and trust us to lead this work,” Nyandoro explained.
The latest group of women to participate in Magnolia Mother’s Trust are finishing up the 12 months. Another lottery is planned for a new group of mothers this spring.
In addition to providing the $1,000 dollars a month to the mothers to help break the cycle of poverty, 529 accounts have been set up for their children and their education.
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