There is an exciting and important new program starting in Philadelphia in 2024! The Philly Joy Bank is a monthly guaranteed income pilot that will provide pregnant and postpartum Philadelphians with unrestricted cash for 18 months. In the pilot program, the monthly income will be provided to approximately 250 pregnant Philadelphians with the aim of reducing racial disparities in birth outcomes. The income is no-strings-attached and respects the dignity and autonomy of participants by allowing them the freedom to use the cash as they determine to best address their needs.
Of the top ten most populated U.S. cities, Philadelphia has the highest rate of infant mortality in the first year of life. When breaking down the data by race and ethnicity, Black infants in our city are over four times more likely to die before their first birthday than White infants.
“Infant mortality in Philadelphia is a solvable crisis,” says Philadelphia Department of Public Health commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole. “We know that being able to better support pregnant people and new parents helps keep babies alive. As the poorest big city in the country, this is not always easy, especially in areas of the city that are being crushed by generational poverty and systemic racism. The Philly Joy Bank draws on the successes of other no-strings-attached guaranteed income projects to help break those cycles."
The Philly Joy Bank is one of the first guaranteed income during pregnancy pilots. Giving cash during and immediately after pregnancy is a promising approach to addressing these racial disparities and improving birth outcomes. In addition to the guaranteed income, program participants will also be offered voluntary support such as benefits and financial counseling, home visiting, lactation support, and doulas.
To be eligible for the Philly Joy Bank pilot, residents must be pregnant, have a household income of less than $100,000 per year annually, and live in one of the three Philly neighborhoods with the highest rates of very low birth weight: Cobbs Creek, Strawberry Mansion, Nicetown-Tioga. The program is not currently accepting applications to participate.
The Philly Joy Bank was developed by the Philadelphia Community Action Network (CAN), a collective impact stakeholder group focused on reducing racial disparities in infant mortality in the city. The CAN is a group of local parents, researchers, doctors, policy workers, birth workers, mental health professionals and more who recognize that the Philadelphia infant mortality rate can only be addressed by fostering a learning community and coordinating cross-sector actions.
The CAN's Holistic Mental Health Group is responsible for coming up with the idea. They concluded that monthly cash supplements during pregnancy and the first year of a child’s life would relieve one of the most significant sources of stress for pregnant people by providing direct financial assistance.
The Department of Health's Division of Maternal, Child, and Family Health is the backbone agency of the CAN. Financial support for the Philly Joy Bank comes from the William Penn Foundation, Spring Point Partners, and The Barra Foundation.