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Pilot program gives low-income Arlington families $500 a month

A project called Arlington's Guarantee will provide cash with no strings attached to families in need

ARLINGTON, Va. — A hand up, not a hand-out. That's the approach behind a new cash relief program that will give hundreds of Arlington County households $500 per month, no strings attached. The pilot program is called Arlington's Guarantee. It is run by the non-profit Arlington Community Foundation in partnership with Arlington County's Department of Human Services.

The goal is to provide 200 low-income working families with $500 every month for 18 months. The first 50 households have already been enrolled.  A team of experts hopes to evaluate how the payments give participants a greater sense of control over their lives. The focus will not be on how families spend the money, but on how it is changing their lives.

According to the Arlington Community Foundation, families can use the money for whatever they feel necessary, from paying bills to college savings. One participant, a single mother who works full time, says the cash assistance will give her the breathing room she needs to finish her GED and attend nursing school.

The Arlington Community Foundation says the need for this type of program is undeniable, with 10,000 Arlington households making less than 30% of this area's median income, which amounts to $38,700 for a family of four. To be eligible for the program, participants must be current housing grant recipients already vetted by Arlington County. The monthly cash payments will not affect a household's eligibility for other state and local benefits.

The Arlington Community Foundation is accepting donations for the program. It says all administrative costs have been covered by a grant from the Kresge Foundation. Therefore, all donations will go directly to participants in the program.

Alexandria plans to launch a similar program Nov. 1. The city is using $3 million in federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act to provide $500 a month to 150 households for two years.

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