Madison launches pilot program offering $500 monthly payments to families in need

MADISON, Wis. — Local leaders announced Monday a new program that will guarantee direct payments to select families, adding Madison to a growing list of communities around the country that are offering a novel kind of support for those who need it most.

Dubbed the Madison Forward Fund, the city’s guaranteed income program will provide 155 families with $500 per month for a full year. Those who are selected for the program can then use the funds with no strings attached, meaning they can put it toward any expense of their choice.

All of the funds for the program — $930,000 in total — were sourced by donations from private donors; no city tax dollars will be spent on Madison’s pilot program.

“We know that monthly cash aid can help families access healthy food, buy school supplies, or even get a better job,” Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway said. “A guaranteed income can also improve the mental and physical health of recipients. Piloting this program in Madison not only helps Madison families, it helps build the case for a national guaranteed income program.”

In order to qualify for the program, families must have a household income less than 200% of the Federal Poverty Line, have at least one child under 18 living in their home and be permanent Madison residents. Applications are available online and open from June 21 through July 3.

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Once applications are submitted and the deadline closes, all eligible applicants will be entered into a pool that the selected families will be chosen from at random. Families — regardless of if they were selected to receive the monthly payments — will also have the opportunity to participate in research surveys and be compensated for their time if they chose to do so.

Data from the surveys will then be analyzed by the Center for Guaranteed Income Research at the University of Pennsylvania with help from the UW-Madison’s Institute for Research on Poverty to learn more about the effectiveness of the program.

“As social science researchers, we are eager to learn what impact unrestricted cash aid can have for families in our community, and to share those findings with affected communities, policymakers and legislators, and other researchers across the country,” Katherine Magnuson, IRP Director and Vilas Distinguished Professor of Social Work at UW-Madison, said.

Mayors for a Guaranteed Income, UW Health, CUNA Mutual Foundation, Roots & Wings Foundation, Madison Gas & Electric Foundation, the TASC Family Foundation, American Family Insurance Dreams Foundation, Alliant Energy Foundation, PRL Keystone Foundation and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services all contributed to the Madison Forward Fund.

More information about the city’s program is available online.