In One Midwestern City, Cash Assistance Is Now Provided To All New Mothers For A Year

( — A new program in Flint, Michigan, seeks to lift families with new babies out of poverty by offering women $1,500 a month starting midway through their pregnancy and then $500 a month for the first year of their newborns’ lives, the Detroit Free Press reported.

Enrollment for Flint’s Rx Kids program began in January, with payments starting to go out last month. Praised by city officials as the first of its kind in the country, Rx Kids does not place restrictions on income. The $1,500 paid during the final months of pregnancy can be used for prenatal care, baby supplies, groceries, rent, or other monthly needs.

After the baby is born, the city provides a $500 stipend each month to help cover the cost of diapers, baby formula, and childcare.

In total, new mothers receive $7,500 in basic income from the city.

The program is funded, in part, by the state of Michigan. However, it is also supported by several foundations. So far, over $43 million has been raised of the estimated $55 million needed for the program over the next five years.

Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley told the Detroit Free Press that the program is “an investment in Flint’s future” because it supports mothers and children “when they are most vulnerable” by lifting them out of poverty and improving their health.

Flint has among the highest childhood poverty rates in the United States, with about a third of its residents living below the poverty level, and the child poverty rate is over 50 percent.

Pediatrician Mona Hanna-Attisha, the director of MSU’s Hurley Children’s Hospital Pediatric Public Health Initiative, said it was vital to ensure that mothers have the resources necessary to provide for their babies in the first year.

She told NPR that what happens in a baby’s first year could “portend your entire life course trajectory.” She explained that in the first 12 months, a baby’s brain doubles in size.

Additionally, Dr. Hanna-Attisha said that with the birth of a new baby, women cut back on their hours and even leave jobs entirely, often leading to increased poverty.

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