A local pilot program to give 200 eligible low-income residents $500 a month for two years, with no strings attached, will continue without any public funding.
For a few months last fall, Arlington County was about to spend federal or county money on “The Arlington Guarantee“, a guaranteed income pilot program launched by a non-profit organization Arlington Community Foundation.
This commitment fell through, however, when the county and the ACF realized that any injection of public funding would have put participants at risk of losing their government benefits, such as child care subsidies or food stamps.
“It would put them back in place instead of highlighting them,” explains Anne Vor der Bruegge, director of grants and initiatives at ACF.
She and Department of Human Services spokesman Kurt Larrick call this revenue cliff the “cliff benefits.” The little extra revenue would make the fall particularly painful in Arlington given its high cost of living.
“The problem was that in order to give money to recipients and not knock them off the benefit cliff – where, for example, they lose SNAP because they earn too much income – and for the net effect of receipt of the money sucked, we had to get a waiver from the Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS),” Larrick said.
He added that with the waiver, the monthly stipend “would not count as income in calculating benefits, and no one who joins the program would lose benefits by being ‘over income'”.
But this waiver only works if the program is 100% privately funded. Last year, the county and the ACF learned that neither the county original plane to use funding from the American Rescue Plan Act nor its revised plan to use unspent funds from fiscal year 2021 would have worked.
“The county has decided to cancel the plan to donate money to ARPA so as not to negatively impact recipients,” he said. “Using closing funds would have created the same problem.”
ACF’s large donor base ensures that this loss of funding will not impact the programme’s trajectory, says Vor der Bruegge, but it could slow it down slightly.
“We always wanted it to be privately funded from the start: that is, by individuals, philanthropic organizations and corporate dollars,” she said, adding that the ARPA funding “evolved as an opportunity we hadn’t anticipated. for or seek.
County contributions would have allowed ACF to enroll all 200 participants immediately, she said. Now ACF will resume its plan to continue accepting donations until it reaches 200 participants.
So far, 105 residents are receiving money directly on debit cards through the program. ACF will continue to increase registrations in groups of 25, as funding becomes available, up to 200 people. The donations directly benefit the participants, explains Vor der Bruegge, because ACF obtained a grant to cover the running costs of the program.
The “benefit cliff” problem is not exclusive to Arlington.
Vor der Bruegge says it hurts nascent guaranteed income programs across the state and country that relied on ARPA funding, she said. These programs are proliferating right now because federal stimulus checks normalized the idea of automatic payments to residents — and many clung to ARPA funding.
Now they have to “go back to the drawing board,” she said, adding that some states are introducing legislation to undo this unintended consequence.
“It’s pretty prevalent across the country,” she said.