Sunday 26 March 2023

Philadelphia now PAYING women to have more babies – Universal Basic Income for expectant mothers

 Director Stacey Kallem of Philadelphia Department of Public Health‘s Division of Maternal, Child and Family Health announced Monday, March 20, a new scheme that will pay pregnant women in the city.

Starting next year, 250 expectant mothers in Philadelphia will receive “no-strings-attached” monthly payment of $1,000 from their third month of pregnancy through their baby’s first birthday. It’s a kind of Universal Basic Income for pregnant mothers.

Known as the Philly Joy Bank, the pilot program will operate in the areas of the city with the highest rates of low birth weights – Cobbs Creek, Strawberry Mansion and Nicetown-Tioga.

“The no-strings-attached is key,” Kallem said. “We are respecting the dignity and autonomy of program participants to use the funds as they see fit to improve their health and the health of their babies.”

The city’s infant mortality rate is 1.5 higher than the national average, and black babies are over four times more likely to die before their first birthday than white babies.

Disparities in birth outcomes by race and ethnicity are “large and alarming,” according to the city’s health department. True enough, more than 15 percent of babies born to non-Hispanic Black mothers have low birth weight, which is 40 percent higher than the citywide average. Meanwhile, almost 15 percent of babies born to non-Hispanic Black women were premature – roughly 30 percent more than the citywide average.

Babies under five pounds at birth are considered to have low birth weight, while babies born before 37 weeks are considered premature.

The Philadelphia pilot program needs to reach its funding target of $6 million in order to begin in 2024.

“Research has shown that supporting pregnant people with cash payments can improve birth outcomes that are associated with infant mortality, including low birth weight and prematurity,” said Philadelphia Health Commissioner Cheryl Bettigole.

San Francisco has similar scheme – but only for Black women

The city of San Francisco in California has a similar scheme, albeit exclusively for Black women.  

Since 2021, the Abundant Birth Project has provided $1,000 a month to 150 at-risk pregnant women of color in efforts to mitigate racial birth disparities.

The program’s approach is to supplement women with additional cash to ease the financial stress that holds them back from putting their health first, which ultimately keeps their expected child healthy, too.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed said she committed an additional $1.5 million to sustain the project for another year, adding that it has “proven to be successful” in helping Black families overcome socio-economic barriers.

“This guaranteed income program helps ease some of the financial burdens that all too often keep mothers from being able to prioritize their own health and ultimately impact the health of their babies and family,” Breed said in a statement. “We hope the Abundant Birth Project serves as a model to address racial birth disparities throughout the region and state, and across the country.”

As women receive funds, researchers from University of California at San FranciscoUC Berkeley and UC Davis will monitor how extra cash can help mothers and their babies. The researchers said they hope the results will inspire similar programs.

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