Providence makes first payments in guaranteed income program; expands benefits counseling statewide

PROVIDENCE MAYOR JORGE O. Elorza announced on Wednesday that the city has sent the first payments to 110 residents who will participate in a yearlong experimental guaranteed income program. PBN FILE PHOTO/STEPHANIE ALVAREZ EWENS

PROVIDENCE – The city has cut the first checks on an experimental guaranteed income program, which will give $500 to 110 residents every month for the next year, Mayor Jorge O. Elorza announced on Wednesday.

While just a fraction of the 4,000 applicants were chosen to participate in the no-strings-attached monthly payment program, accompanying services to connect families to public benefits programs have been expanded to help all Rhode Islanders, according to a city press release. 

The benefits counseling provided by Amos House and Dorcas International was originally intended to serve only the pilot program participants, for whom certain public benefits might change as a result of receiving the city payments. Thanks to a $100,000 grant from the R.I. Department of Human Services, benefit counseling is now available to anyone in the state interested in learning more about public programs for which they may be eligible.

“It’s hard to imagine the stress families experience on a day-to-day basis when they don’t have enough money for food, housing or health care,”  DHS Interim Director Celia J. Blue said in a statement. “While these basic needs are not currently available to everyone, guaranteed income helps Rhode Islanders get one step closer to this reality. At DHS, we understand the significance of safety net services. We’re hopeful DHS support of newly expanded benefits counseling will further improve this pilot program and help give families new opportunities to thrive.”

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Elorza first announced plans for the $1 million Providence Guaranteed Income Pilot Program in July, funded through cash and in-kind donations, including a $500,000 contribution from former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. 

Under the framework developed by the city and its partners – including a host of local nonprofits and The Center for Guaranteed Income Research at the University of Pennsylvania – the yearlong pilot program targets city residents who earn earn at or below 200% of the poverty level – equal to $25,760 in annual income for one person or $53,000 for a four-person household. Participants were asked to apply and then chosen through a lottery system, with extra weight given to applicants of color or with children. 

The Center for Guaranteed Income Research, which ran the lottery, will also study the effectiveness of the program by comparing what happens to those who receive payments, comparing them to a control group of those given no extra cash.

More than three-quarters of those selected are women, and more than 60% have children under 18, according to the city. Nearly half, 45%, are Hispanic or Latino; 31% are white; and 19% are Black.

Their median reported monthly income was $913, or $10,956 for 12 months, and the median age was 39. 

For more information on the Providence Guaranteed Income Pilot Program, visit To schedule a benefits counseling session, call Amos House at 272-0220 or Dorcas International at 784-8600.

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