DC to send some families monthly checks

Some families will receive monthly checks. Photo courtesy of Josh Appel / Unsplash.

A new program is set to launch this year that will provide some District residents with extra cash to bolster their family expenses. 

Councilmembers Charles Allen, Brianne Nadeau and Janeese Lewis George introduced the idea for a “monthly basic income” program to the DC Council in July 2021 and it was later incorporated into the fiscal year 2022 budget. It provides a monthly stipend for families who qualify for and receive the Earned Income Tax Credit (a tax break for low-to-moderate-income workers and families). Instead of one payment, residents can expect a monthly check. 

The timing of this program coincides with the end of the pandemic-era increased SNAP Allotments on March 1, which granted additional assistance to several low-income families’ food budgets. The average family is expected to lose $82 a month from their benefits once the program ends, according to the Food Action and Resource Center. 

“This has the potential to be one of the most important policies to go into effect in years in the District,” Allen said in a press release. “This isn’t a pilot program or an experiment. We know providing extra funds to families who have desperately few resources can have enormous benefits for everyone. And while I wish that the federal government would maintain SNAP benefits at higher levels, I am glad this is coming online at this moment to soften the blow.”

Low-income families (those earning about $57,000 annually for a family of three) can file a tax return to be eligible for the stipend. 

Depending on family size and income, people can expect $50 to $250 a month this year. That amount is set to increase in future years to as much as $500 a month. There is no end date for the program. 

The median household income in D.C. for Black residents is $46,201, and for Latino families is $83,170, while for white households it’s $143,150. This program is a solution to this inequity, Melody Webb, the co-founder of the local nonprofit Mother’s Outreach Network, said.

“It puts more money in the pockets of people who are more marginalized,” Webb said. “It’s a reparative program, and it helps fill some of that income and wealth gap.”

Webb said she would like to see the program expand to assist parents who do not earn an income, as residents need to file taxes to be eligible for the tax credit. 

“The poorest children are unfortunately not covered by the Earned Income Tax Credit,” she said. “They are the children of people who don’t who are not earners, and therefore, their households don’t receive it. So we would love to see it expand in a way that somehow covers those families.”

Last year, Mayor Muriel Bowser launched the “Strong Families, Strong Futures DC” pilot program, which provided no-strings-attached payments of $900 per month for new parents
who are 250% below the poverty level. 

There’s also a general lack of knowledge about taxes — some struggle with how to file or don’t file at all because they believe they don’t owe any money. There needs to be robust outreach, training and education about the new program to reach eligible residents, Webb said. 

Mother’s Outreach Network hosts a tax workshop for parents at Southwest Library. Call 202-818-8649 or email [email protected] to schedule an appointment. 

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