- Kimberly McNair is receiving $1,000 a month for one year through a basic-income program.
- The program is currently helping 100 low-income Black mothers like her in Jackson, Mississippi.
- Most basic-income programs are designed to help those who typically experience higher rates of poverty.
When Kimberly McNair got into a car crash last year, she didn't know how she would pay for the damages.
McNair, 35, didn't have car insurance. Her vehicle was totaled. Without the insurance, she had to pay for a new ride out of pocket. She suddenly found herself in debt for two cars.
"I need a car to get to work, to get groceries, and to pick the kids up from school," she told Insider. "So that didn't leave me with a lot of other options."
McNair qualified to be a participant in the Magnolia Mother's Trust, a basic-income program in Jackson, Mississippi, that provides $1,000 a month to 100 low-income Black mothers for a year. Funded by a combination of individual and institutional donors, Magnolia has been giving out money since 2018, and is currently on its third cohort of mothers.
Basic-income programs like Magnolia have been surging in popularity over the past few years across the globe, especially as the pandemic caused financial strain for many low-income households. Insider reported that there were at least 33 currently or recently active basic-income programs throughout the US by the end of 2021.
Basic-income programs differ from traditional welfare programs in that they come with no strings attached: Recipients can do whatever they want with the money, and don't have to report what they use it for.
Programs like Magnolia specifically target low-income members of groups that typically face financial hardship. California, for instance, provides funds for programs geared toward pregnant people and young adults transitioning out of the foster-care system. Another program in St. Paul, Minnesota, specifically helps parents financially impacted by the pandemic.
"The reason the Magnolia Mother's Trust is focused on Black mothers in extreme poverty is for several reasons — including the facts that show that Black women and children are more likely to live in poverty than any other demographic," Aisha Nyandoro, who runs Magnolia, told Insider. "It's impossible to talk about economic justice without accounting for race and gender, yet so many of our economic policies fail to embody that."
In addition to helping her pay for her car, McNair said that the Magnolia funds help her pay for rent, groceries, and supplies for her kids. Vitally, she said, it's also helping her tackle medical debt from previous health complications.
"People struggle every day even when having full-time jobs," McNair said. "It's never enough to just be able to do everything on your own. So the money's a big help."
Basic income helped McNair replace her car and pay medical debt
McNair has been receiving $1,000 a month from Magnolia for the past year. She said the funds have been vital, helping her get a car after her accident, pay medical bills, and even pay for her sons' youth football league.
McNair, who works at the local unemployment office, makes about $36,000 a year. Before this gig, she was working at a call center, making $30,000. That's usually been enough to keep her and her two sons afloat, but she was hit with unexpected medical bills last year.
"I got sick a few times last year, so I went to the hospital where I had to stay overnight. I had episodes where I became ill and I didn't know where it was coming from," she said, adding that she currently owes about $6,000 in medical bills.
She said that the money from Magnolia helped address a variety of her family's expenses. She pays for groceries with food stamps, but cash from the basic-income program means that her family has more options — and that her kids can have more than one serving of food more often.
McNair said that Magnolia allows her to budget for after-school activities for her sons. They're both interested in football, and she can use funds to pay for registration and equipment.
"The kids grow so much," she said. "You buy clothes one week and the next they're too small. Just making sure that they have enough, like a decent pair of shoes and school supplies, the money goes a long way… kids don't want to feel like they don't have a life, people need an extra boost to make sure kids are able to eat out once a month and do something special, to show them that they're appreciated."