We believe that there is no single roadmap to success and that each one of our neighbors should have agency over their own financial decision-making as they know best what their family needs. That is why Martha’s Table, in partnership with the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development has committed to supporting over one hundred mothers living in Wards 5, 7, and 8 through our latest direct cash assistance program: Strong Families, Strong Futures DC. This initiative will help families build a strong financial foundation that paves the way for lasting child and family success.
This is our third round of cash assistance –previously launching a March 2020, $1.4 million emergency COVID-19 cash assistance response, and the following year with the launch of Thrive East of the River – providing over 500 families with $5,500 each in direct cash assistance over a five-month period.
During the public announcement of Strong Families, Strong Futures DC in January, guests got to hear the incredible story of a mother who was positively impacted by cash assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Angel Hawkins, presenting at Strong Families, Strong Futures DC press event.
When Angel Hawkins, a lifelong Washingtonian, and Ward 8 resident, found out she was pregnant with her third child at the end of 2019, she had no idea a pandemic was just around the corner that would turn her life upside down.
Since high school, Angel has prided herself on working hard with the goal of achieving her dreams. At the beginning of 2020, she moved into a new home, completed cosmetology school and earned her license, inching her closer to her dream of owning her own salon.
Her plans of putting her new license to work were completely uprooted by the pandemic. “March 23, 2020, was a reminder that no matter how much you plan and save…unexpected things can happen that can change the trajectory of your life” shared Angel at the announcement event. She had done everything right by working, saving money, continuing her education, and supporting her children.
However, it didn’t take long until all the money she had saved up was entirely depleted. At the beginning of 2021, not even a year into the pandemic, Angel had enough money in her savings account for one more mortgage payment and that was it. What she thought was a temporary situation was suddenly becoming a permanent one.
Knowing about her accruing debt and stress, a close friend of Angel’s who was also a mother in Ward 8 recommended Martha’s Table for support. She quickly got connected with Ms. Ida Bryant, a Family Specialist at Martha’s Table, who walked Angel through the application process for the cash assistance program that was launched in response to the pandemic. “It was a blessing. I was able to get groceries, pampers, educational resources for my children, and other essentials from Martha’s Table” Angel recalls.
Angel shared back with us how much Ms. Ida supported her. “Aunty Ida, as we call her in my house, was a breath of fresh air during a dark financial time in my life. She was always available and able to provide the resources or guidance I needed at the right time. She saw me, she supported me and was there every step of the way.”
Along with 590 other families, Angel received $1,100 of direct cash assistance per month for 5 months to use at her discretion. “[Direct cash assistance] not only helped my family financially but also helped reduce my stress and allowed my family to go back to a mommy and children mode that was rooted in re-connection,” she noted.
Angel Hawkins and family.
Angel also shared that she’s going back to school to get an instructional license in Cosmetology and is proud to be an example for her children, teaching them that education never stops. Angel closed her event remarks by sharing “As I look back on the last two years, I’m proud of how far I’ve come and I’m thankful for Martha’s Table, Ms. Ida, and the supporters who helped me and my family not only make it through but also thrive during one of the most economically challenging times of our lifetime.”
Angel’s powerful experience is a testament that unconditional cash assistance programs not only positively impact families but help set them up for long-term success. The first cohort of Strong Families, Strong Futures DC, made up of 132 moms, were selected through a lottery drawing in the early spring of this year. On May 20, the first round of funding was processed and families received their payments. We anticipate families participating in our Strong Families, Strong Futures DC program will share similar experiences as the families that participated in the THRIVE program
The cohort has participated in orientations that have provided information, resources and training to ensure they’re informed and supported through the entire process. Support will include all services that Martha’s Table offers for a holistic approach to family resources and care. Participants will have access to our no-cost groceries, adult and children’s clothing, as well as diapers and other baby items. We’re also excited to welcome the new cohort to our upcoming Fathers day event and emotional wellness and nutrition events this summer.
We hope that Strong Families, Strong Futures DC inspires more investment in unconditional cash assistance programs not only in the District but throughout our region. To learn more about the benefits of cash transfers check out our cash transfer panel Think Big, Give Cash – a national conversation on the impacts of cash transfer programs in cities across the country, like Compton, California; Jackson, Mississippi; Stockton, California; and Washington, D.C. CLICK HERE
To learn more about Strong Families, Strong Futures DC click here.