Women + Income = WINcome
2021-2025 Grantmaking Program Will Feature Cash Assistance Component
Even in 2021, too many women’s paths to prosperity remain obstructed by their gender, race, class, or zip code. Their paths are even more challenging to navigate when they experience multiple, intersecting barriers. As a result, WFCO is centering gender, racial, and economic equity in our 2021-2025 strategic framework. When women have resources and flexibility, such as cash assistance, they can decide how to best move their lives and their families forward.
Building on what we’ve learned through WAGES (Women Achieving Greater Economic Security), the WFCO Relief Fund and partners, WFCO is excited to launch WINcome, a program designed to address the economic realities of women in Colorado.
Through grant investments and partnerships, WFCO will demonstrate that individuals can advance economically when they are trusted to make their own decisions about what they & their families need through flexible and holistic resources. WINcome grants will support Colorado women who participate in programs offered by grantee partners by providing direct cash assistance to supplement, not replace, their income and other benefits they may receive through public and nonprofit programs. WINcome grants also advance systemic changes that support gender, racial, and economic equity for Colorado women and families.
The proof is in the pay: Cash assistance is an effective economic equity strategy
Across the country and around the world, there is expanded interest in direct cash assistance, a proven anti-poverty strategy. Giving money to those who need it most and trusting individuals to spend it as they choose is rooted in long-standing practices of marginalized communities coming together to invest in each other. Nonprofits and governments have seen remarkable outcomes among recipients of monthly cash assistance payments. Additionally, research from California to Canada to Colorado shows that directly providing cash assistance to individuals who earn low-incomes is an effective economic mobility tactic.
- In 2018, Foundations for Social Change in Vancouver provided 50 people experiencing homelessness with approximately $6,000 USD. At the end of the year, the people who received cash assistance moved into stable housing faster than those who did not receive cash, and they saved enough money to maintain financial self-sufficiency over the year of follow-up.
- In 2019, the Stockton Economic Empowerment Distribution (SEED), funded by philanthropic donations, gave 125 low-income individuals $500 a month for two years to use as they needed. The income reduced recipients’ income volatility and better prepared them for unexpected expenses. More importantly, it positively impacted recipients’ mental health and full-time employment grew among the recipients.
- Through our own WAGES grantee cohort and our WFCO Relief Fund, WFCO has also seen the power that cash has to transform opportunity, increase financial stability, and reduce the impacts of systemic inequities.
“our donation is allowing me to continue my education in early childhood without the worry of rent for the month of June. Thanks to you, I am enrolled in summer courses for two more classes to obtain my teacher’s certificate. – Participant, Pueblo Community College
Participants in cash assistance programs often work and earn more
Many WFCO Relief Fund grantees used funding to provide direct cash assistance to community members as an immediate response to the pandemic. Providing direct cash assistance to women and families for rent, utilities, food, and other needs was critical during a time when many experienced reduced work hours or loss of employment. Additionally, several WAGES grantee partners use cash assistance to complement their job training programs.
“We’ve noticed that the Cliff Effect really starts taking effect on the third month of employment – that’s when TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) and other benefits start to fall out. Our participants receive an earnings supplement in months three, four, and five of full-time employment. It keeps them going in the early months of a new job,” said Kiara Wright with WFCO grantee, the Center for Work Education and Employment (CWEE).
As different forms of cash assistance became more broadly implemented, some wonder about the impact of this form of support on individuals’ willingness to stay engaged in education, workforce development, or the job market. Research has shown “…higher unemployment benefits don’t seem to affect employment the way many economists assumed” and “guaranteed income enabled shifts in employment by giving recipients the emotional and financial capacity for risk taking.”
“Women know what they need to move forward financially. Trusting women with flexible cash resources to address their unique circumstances is a pathway to economic equity,” said Louise Myrland, WFCO vice president of programs. “While it may surprise some, participants in cash assistance programs often work and earn more once they have the resources needed to pursue better jobs.”
Feedback from recipients of WAGES cash assistance
WAGES grantee partners and their participants have praised the ability of cash assistance to help them make decisions that are most impactful for their families.
“Your donation is allowing me to continue my education in early childhood without the worry of rent for the month of June. Thanks to you, I am enrolled in summer courses for two more classes to obtain my teacher’s certificate.” – Participant, Pueblo Community College
“We issued her $1,000 in emergency relief, which she used to pay for her rent and utility bills. She had enough money left to buy fresh food for her children. This no-strings-attached direct cash assistance put the power in her hands to decide what were the highest priorities for her family in a time of survival.”- Valley Settlement staff
“I received money that I used for tires. That to me was incredible that I was given the power to make my own decisions for what was needed for my family.” – Participant, Eagle County Department of Human Services
From the grassroots to the grass tops
WFCO serves women, including trans women, intersex women, and non-trans women, and nonbinary people who need us most. Through WINcome, WFCO and our grantees will demonstrate that individuals can advance economically when they are trusted to make their own decisions about what they and their families need. WFCO will fund organizations promoting flexible and holistic resources to achieve gender, racial, and economic equity.
By funding from the grass roots to the grass tops WFCO hopes to advance gender, racial, and economic equity for all of Colorado’s 2.8 million women.