The sun isn’t the only thing shining this year in Santa Fe, New Mexico as for the first time in history, single parents who are enrolled in Santa Fe Community College receive basic income support funded through the Mayor’s for Guaranteed Income (MGI). The City of Santa Fe’s MGI Project, Santa Fe LEAP, paves the way toward community resiliency through safety net funding as low-income parents strive to meet their living expenses and educational goals.  

According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, single mothers are more likely to live in poverty than other women at every educational rate. Single mothers in New Mexico who graduate with an associates degree are 35% less likely to live in poverty than a high school graduate.  Direct benefits not only improve the lives of graduates but also impact the safety net budget.  Single mothers who graduate with an associate degree save New Mexico $26,842 in public assistance spending over a lifetime.  These benefits increase as women receive higher educational degrees.  For example, single mothers in New Mexico who graduate with a bachelor’s degree are 59% less likely to live in poverty than high school graduates and save New Mexico $43,711 in public assistance spending over a lifetime.

In building momentum for the program, Santa Fe’s mayor Alan Webber, along with city councilors and staff members from Santa Fe Community College and its Foundation, launched the pilot program with funding through MGI. Eligible participants are between the ages of 18 and 30 and must be the primary care provider for a child under the age of 18.  In addition, the student must have been enrolled in at least one class prior to Fall 2021, into a certificate or degree program and make less than 200% of the federal poverty rate. 100 single parents were randomly selected to receive the $400 monthly cash assistance via credit card or direct deposit. Although this pilot program is intended to last one-year, future goals are in place to increase the $400 monthly limit to $500 per month, with the hopes to last for an additional year.  Gifts that go toward the Santa Fe MGI Project are 100% tax deductible and should be sent to the SFCC Foundation and directed to the MGI Project.

Education reporter Jessica Pollard interviewed nursing student Martina, who participates in the pilot program. Martina reported that her family does not qualify for government assistance, and they struggle to makes ends meet. Martina uses the monthly income toward her $500 car payment. Moreover, the City of Santa Fe’s Communication Director David Herndon stated that although data has yet been measured to provide information on the outcomes of the project, participants report not having to make choices between food or heating and have options that were not available before the project began. Herndon observed, “For instance, this buffer may allow participants to hire babysitters, so they are able to complete class work for college degrees.” Evaluation will be conducted by a team at the University of Pennsylvania, Center for Guaranteed Income Research as it is a part of MGI funding.

Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber says: “We’re committed to helping our young working families have better lives. It’s wrong for a mom or dad to have to choose between getting an education and feeding their family. We’re giving these families the support they need to realize all the things an education can provide: more security, more stability and a lot less stress. This project makes Santa Fe a leader in a national movement for real progressive change.”

The Basic Income Pilot has been replicated in cities and towns across the country. Further movement in research and funding will help in reversing the cycle of poverty, building resiliency for those who struggle to make ends meet as they strive for brighter futures for their generations to come.

Miranda Queen and David Herndon, April 13, 2022