MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. (WDVM) — What would an extra $800 dollars a month do for you and your family? That’s the question Montgomery County lawmakers are looking to answer as they lay out a new “guaranteed income” pilot program for low-income households.
Montgomery County leaders announced the first program of its kind in the state of Maryland: a monthly stipend to spend on rent, food, clothing, anything the recipient chooses to spend it on. It’s part of what makes this program different from others, with no stipulations on how you spend the cash.
Montgomery County Health and Human Services Director Dr. Raymond Crowel says autonomy is important here.
“Use it to take a class, use it to get your car repaired, use it to get a better car. Whatever that need is, it’s your decision. I think we demonstrate in this model that we trust and have confidence in people in poverty to make smart decisions. They do make smart decisions all the time,” said Dr. Crowel.
During the pilot, 300 low-income families across the county will get those $800 checks every month for up to two years.
Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich is on board with the plan. He says he’s committed to funding the program and getting families out of poverty permanently. The county’s reserve funds and philanthropic donations will go toward supporting the program.
“The consequences of this show up in our children. Poverty is not just an adult experience, it’s a child’s experience. It’s not just an economic experience, it’s a social-emotional experience,” said Elrich.
Councilmember Evan Glass summed up his thoughts on the pilot, saying, “This program is not a hand-out, it is a hand-up.”
There are no qualifications yet laid out for the program, leaders say that’s something they’re going to be working on in the coming months. They hope to have the first payments rolled out in the first quarter of 2022.