Cambridge to be first city in the US to provide guaranteed income to every family living in poverty

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During the State of the City Address on Wednesday, April 27, Mayor Siddiqui announced that the City of Cambridge will be allocating close to $22 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding to build on the work of the Cambridge RISE pilot and combat the adverse effects of the pandemic faced by low-income families in Cambridge. This allocation will provide direct cash assistance, in the form of $500 dollars per month for approximately a year and a half, to every single eligible family under 200% of the federal poverty level in the City of Cambridge. This step makes Cambridge the first city in the country to expand its cash assistance program to every family living in poverty.

“Our commitment has always been to find a way to expand the impact of RISE and ensure that all families living in poverty in our city would similarly receive cash assistance,” said Mayor Siddiqui at the State of the City Address. “Particularly in light of the ongoing effects of the pandemic, which we know disproportionately affect low-income residents and residents of color, this historic allocation will help put families on a path to economic stability.”

“Cambridge has always been a leader on progressive issues and has clear values of compassion and integrity,” said Geeta Pradhan, president of the Cambridge Community Foundation, a Cambridge RISE partner. “Our hope is that this infusion of cash will help reduce the debilitating trauma of scarcity and put families on a path to economic stability.”

The Mayor was joined at the State of the City Address by one of the RISE recipients, Porchia and her daughter Rose. RISE has been a stabilizing force for Porchia, and since last fall, she has been taking classes to become a medical assistant. RISE has helped her cover expenses for class, transportation, childcare, and more. “I was struggling to pay my utilities, struggling to pay my friends back,” Porchia said. “By the time I was finally about to get my first check, my lights had went off.” Just recently, she passed the final exam to receive her medical assistant certification, and will be finishing the program in June. 

Providing direct cash assistance has proven to be an effective anti-poverty strategy, as families who are struggling can use funds as they best see fit without limitations.

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