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Birmingham Celebrates ‘Guaranteed Income’ Program for Single Mothers

From left: Adrian Perkins, former Mayor of Shreveport, LA; Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin; Korlesha Holt, program participant. (Sym Posey, The Birmingham Times)
By Sym Posey
The Birmingham Times

When Birmingham’s Korlesha Holt applied for the city’s Embrace Mothers Guaranteed Income Pilot program last year she was disabled, didn’t work and never expected to be one of the single moms to be selected for the program.

“When I received the news that I was going to be a part of this, it was like a breath of fresh air,” she said Tuesday during a roundtable discussion at the Woodlawn Theatre. “It was like a burden was lifted off my shoulders. I had more time to spend with my children and more time to do things with them and make them happy.”

The event was part of the Guaranteed Income Works national tour and included a screening of It’s Basic, a documentary feature film following guaranteed income recipients from pilots across the nation. The film was directed by Emmy award-winning director Marc Levin, and premiered at Tribeca Film Festival in June 2023.

Last year, 110 Birmingham residents received $375 a month for a 12-month period through the Embrace Mothers guaranteed income program funded by Mayors for a Guaranteed Income (MGI), a network of mayors advocating for guaranteed income to give Americans an income floor.

Embrace Mothers is a pilot program in partnership with MGI. Birmingham Mayor Randall L. Woodfin took the pledge to join MGI’s effort. The city received a $500,000 grant to execute the pilot. Additional funds from the City of Birmingham support the administration of the pilot.

In 2022, Woodfin kickstarted the pilot program in Birmingham and 110 single mothers were selected. First payments were issued in March 2022. More than 8,000 mothers applied for the Embrace Mothers program in Birmingham.

On Tuesday, Holt, Woodfin, Adrian Perkins, the former mayor of Shreveport, Louisiana, other leaders and residents gathered at the Woodlawn Theatre for the documentary and roundtable discussion.

“There were moments where I didn’t know how we were going to eat,” Holt said.  “… I couldn’t do a lot with the income that I had. This pilot we were able to extend our families and just be great.”

Sarah McMillan, Manager of Workforce & Talent, City of Birmingham, said a lot of work was done in the beginning of the pilot “to see who we wanted to serve and who were the 110 participants … We did some research and we looked around, and on the heels of the pandemic we recognized that about 60 percent of households with children in Birmingham are headed by a single female. We saw an opportunity to not only tell the story and uplift women in our community who are stewarding our future, but to wrap our arms around them and provided them with a guaranteed income,“ McMillan said.

After more than 8,000 moms applied for the, which could only fund 110, Woodfin said, “over 19,000 women at least started an application during the one-week period — a figure equivalent to nearly 100 percent of the city’s total population of single female heads of household.”

On Tuesday, the mayor said, “In the city of Birmingham, 6 out of 10 households are led by women who are single mothers who wake up every day to do everything that is necessary in her means to take care of their families, their children, and their households. Guaranteed Income in my mind … is not in conflict with capitalism. Over $600 billion is given in some form of tax cut to the rich. I support the rich and I want to alleviate poverty at the same time.“

Birmingham’s pilot program recently ended but city leaders said they are pushing for programs like this on both the state and national level.