How to spend your guaranteed income

“Let the money give you peace of mind,” says Brenita Burns, 38, who was one of 110 low-income black mothers in Jackson, Mississippi, who received $ 1,000 a month last year as part of a guaranteed income project called Magnolia. Mother’s trust. When Burns was accepted into the program, she hoped to use some of the money to pay off her $ 20,000 in student loans. But by the time her first check arrived in March 2020, the country was in the process of shutting down. The first things she bought were groceries and a laptop for her 10-year-old son.

“You can do whatever you want with it,” says Burns. It’s your money, and research has shown that people tend to know their own needs better. Some women used their money to hire tutors for children who had difficulty with virtual learning; others have repaid high-interest loans. Burns’ money allowed her to take care of her sick mother and be home to help her son with his homework online. This allowed her to buy things that she wanted for herself and her son. “It was nice to be able to walk into a store with him and say, ‘What do you want?’ Says Burns.

If you are receiving public benefits, be aware that guaranteed income money will likely mean you will receive less assistance. Burns had to give up over $ 200 a month in food stamps and his federally subsidized rent went up. Yet overall, she won more than she lost. Most of the dozens of guaranteed income pilot programs in the country are for a fixed term. “Enjoy it,” said Burns, “but know it’s going to end. If you need government assistance after your program ends, it will most likely take time to get it back on track. Try to save enough to at least cover this time. Burns received his last check in February and is still waiting to resume the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance program.

Burns never told his friends or neighbors about his guaranteed income. “Don’t talk about it,” she said. It didn’t seem fair to mention the free money when not everyone was eligible to apply. A year of most basic economic security has given Burns time to think about how she wants to be in the world. She started writing children’s books and wants to get a master’s degree to become a guidance counselor. In the end, she didn’t save much, but in a year when so many around her drowned in debt and illness, the money helped Burns feed, house and protect. his family. “I was able to stay above the water,” she says.

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