Tools to Escape Poverty – What Happens When We Invest in People?

Tools to Escape Poverty – What Happens When We Invest in People?

An interesting experiment began in Northwest Indiana earlier this year that is already gaining attention at the national level. A nonprofit organization backed by local and national partners began providing people with new tools to escape poverty. After just about four months of work, the pilot program is already achieving very positive results.

Selected individuals are now receiving a basic income with additional support to improve financial stability and quality of life. According to officials, this is no handout. It’s an investment in people to help make the economy work for everyone.

 

The Experiment

Starting last April, the aptly named G.I.V.E. pilot launched in Gary. A group of 125 people began receiving basic income payments of $500 per month for 12 months with access to an assortment of financial wellness programs. These programs include things like access to scholarships, education about healthy budgets, workshops, and more. The cash payments are unconditional and can be spent in any way.

Another 156 participants are serving as a control group. They are not receiving the $500 payments, but they do have access to the same education and support.

The intent of the pilot is to observe the effects of a basic income on economic insecurity. According to the participants themselves, the extra $500 a month could mean the difference between a person having to choose between paying rent or buying food, repairing a vehicle for transportation to work, or being able to save to purchase a home. Closing some of these gaps could lead to measurable outcomes for communities and local businesses.

“Universal basic income is a simple but profound idea,” said City of Gary Mayor Jerome A. Prince when he announced the program. “A lot of our neighbors and family members struggle with economic insecurity every single day. In fact, every month many of them find themselves choosing between food, rent, or other basic necessities. The pandemic has made their situation even worse in many ways. Clearly, we need to do something to uplift these people because they are truly struggling. This program will put more residents on the road to economic well-being.”

Participants were randomly selected after submitting a survey application. The only requirements for eligibility were that applicants be at least 18 years of age, earn an annual salary of $35,000 or less, and reside in the City of Gary. The pilot includes people of every race, background, nationality, gender, and age.

 

Results So Far, Four Months In

With just fourth months out of the pilot’s 12-month run complete, it has already started to achieve measurable results. Although this is only preliminary data, it indicates a positive trend.

Out of 125 people in the test group:

  • 26 that were unemployed returned to the workforce,
  • 5 were able to get their vehicles fixed to keep their jobs,
  • 30 unbanked now have bank accounts,
  • 3 have enrolled in higher education at IUN,
  • 80 are taking advantage of the free Money Matters classes,
  • 4 have opened a new business,
  • Several families have taken their children on a real vacation for the very first time.
  • Local businesses, restaurants, and other venues are reporting a positive impact.

Prophetess Burgess Peoples, Executive Director of G.I.V.E., said the pilot is already some of the most rewarding work she’s done in her 25-year career.

“We are literally seeing people change their lives,” Peoples said. “People that were once living paycheck to paycheck are now starting to pay down debt. They’re starting to save for the first time. They’re finally getting to go out and do fun things as a family. It’s been incredible so far. G.I.V.E. is making a bigger difference in people’s lives than we ever could have predicted.”

As one G.I.V.E. recipient described it, “The G.I.V.E. program allows me the ability to not live paycheck to paycheck and helps me save. The plan is to save enough for a down payment on a home. They even supplied me with resources to point me in the right direction.”

“After just four months, we’re observing how simple it can be to move a person from constant financial struggle to a future with much greater stability by providing things like access to education and a little extra support. We expect the end results of this project will reflect a great outcome not just for these individuals, but for the entire community as well,” said Thomas P. Dakich, board finance with the G.I.V.E. board of directors.

 

G.I.V.E.

The nonprofit Guaranteed Income Validation Effort (G.I.V.E.) is Indiana’s first mayor-led guaranteed income initiative as part of a national network called Mayors for a Guaranteed Income, which currently has more than 50 basic income projects underway in multiple cities. Successful outcomes have been reported in many of those national projects.

No government funds were used in the launch of Gary’s experiment. All of the money involved in starting G.I.V.E’s pilot came from the national foundation or was raised through grant applications, donations, and fundraising. It was totally a grassroots effort.

Later, in mid-September of 2021, Mayor Prince announced the city will be giving a portion of its American Rescue Plan funding to GIVE to support residents that have endured hardships caused by the pandemic. He announced that $400,000 is planned to go towards the program as a direct response to residents that have lost their jobs or have faced underemployment.

G.I.V.E.’s local partners are assisting with many of the support programs that participants are receiving. They include Horizon Bank, Centier Bank, Indiana University Northwest, Ivy Tech, Work OneNorthwest ISBDC, Indiana Faith Leaders and Community Partnerships, Israel CME Church, Force for Good CDC, and the Urban League of NWI.

 

An Example to Follow

The pilot has been gaining positive attention because it differs significantly from others throughout the country. In many of the national projects, specific demographics were selected as participants. Gary’s pilot does not preclude anyone as long as they meet the three basic eligibility requirements. Officials expect this methodology will become a model for other cities in the future, particularly due to the widespread community impact it has the potential to generate.

 

Affecting Real Change

Gary’s G.I.V.E. pilot has only just begun and is already affecting real change among participants. The ripple effect for area business is also likely going to be strong, especially as the local economy’s health improves. In all, this experiment reveals interesting truths about how important a small boost can be when applied in the right ways and what new strategies could serve best in our state’s efforts to target poverty and equality.

As more on this story develops, we’ll be keeping readers up to date in future stores on BuildingIndiana.com.

 

 

 


G.I.V.E. Board Members (Angels)

  • City of Gary Mayor Jerome A. Prince, Chairman
  • Attorney Thomas P. Dakich, Board Finance
  • Councilman Steve Tulowitzki, Board Communications
  • Heather Ennis, Board Programmatic
  • Willie Pritchett, Board IT

 

 

Category Features, Finance