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While some of us freaked the hell out at the onset of the pandemic, hoarding toilet tissue and paper towels, others had more life-altering issues like whether they’d be able to put food on the table for our families because their job wasn’t secure. In Pittsburgh, 85% of those living in poverty compared to those living in other large cities are African American. Mayor Bill Peduto of Pittsburgh is putting the money where his mouth is and following through on his efforts to help communities living in poverty. In an experimental cash program initiative called One Pittsburgh, which will provide $500 a month to 200 participants over two years (a total of an additional $12,000), 100 of those participants will be African American women, and the other 100 people from parts of the city who are experiencing financial hardship, food insecurity, and employment issues.
The American Rescue Plan will fund this pilot program. The mayor will use $2.5 million of the funds granted to his city from the federal government to help families through what they are calling Assured Cash Experiment (or ACE). In an experimental cash program initiative called One Pittsburgh, which will provide $500 a month to 200 participants over two years (a total of an additional $12,000), 100 of those participants will be African American women, and the other 100 people from parts of the city who are experiencing financial hardship, food insecurity, and employment issues. The hope in providing communities in need with these guaranteed funds, is that financial stability can also improve mental health and chronic stress. People who worry about how they will eat, or where they will sleep, or if they can get to work, carry stressors which impact their emotional, physical, and mental well-being.
The cash program is a direct response to a study conducted in 2019 by the University of Pittsburgh which found, “A black resident automatically by moving their life expectancy would go up, their income would go up, their educational opportunities for their children would go up as well as their employment.” In partnership with the Black Political Empowerment Project, a nonprofit which seeks to create a community for African American people in Pittsburgh to have the resources necessary to empower themselves and their communities, joint efforts are being made to help pull families out of poverty. Of course, it’s a temporary fix for a larger problem.
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The local non-profit called OnePGH will lead the disbursement of funds and will reach out to families who qualify. Program lead, Michele Abbott hopes that the program will be off the ground by the end of the year. Once the money is disbursed, the funds will be available on a debit card and can be used for whatever the recipient wants.
In her article called ‘The Not-So Secret Lives Of Black Pittsburgh Women,’ author and Pittsburgh resident, Deesha Philyaw cites a different 2019 study , commissioned by the mayor of Pittsburgh’s office that highlights how poorly Black women do in Pittsburgh.“The research confirmed not only what we already know, but what we feel: Pittsburgh is not for us. Our lives, our successes, our well-being don’t matter here,” Philyaw writes.
In Pittsburgh, most people work in the healthcare or service industry, like fast food. In 2019, the median household income in Pittsburgh is $48,711. In Pittsburgh, 20% of the population is living in poverty and making less than $34,083 a year. Can you imagine buying groceries each week, paying rent every month, putting gas in your car, and paying for childcare on just over $34,000 a year?
Part of every parent’s job is to provide for their child and for those who cannot put food on the table or keep a roof over their family’s head, the burdens are heavier. Housing and food are essentials for survival. While this initiative is just a very strong band-aid to stop the bleeding of a much larger issue, it’s one step in the right direction. The money will help Black families build themselves up in the process. The extra $6,000 for Black women will get them closer to making a median salary, but it won’t quite get them there assuming they make $34,000 a year and need to get to $48,000 to hit the median mark.
What I hope is that in conjunction with an added $500 a month, there is a rigorous financial literacy component attached because helping a person is an investment and helping a community of people takes hard work, a clear vision, and a commitment to address all underlying issues, including systemic racism.
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