Atlanta approves pilot program that offers cash payment financially strapped families

Three hundred Atlanta residents are going to receive direct cash payments approved by city leaders and funded with taxpayer money. While the program was approved by the Atlanta City Council, there were some concerns over who controls the $2 million in taxpayer money.

"To provide eligible low- and moderate-income individuals with a monthly stipend of $500 per month for up to 12 months due to a memorandum of understanding," District 2 City Council Member Amir Farokhi explained to the Atlanta City Council during a meeting back in October.

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms is joining about 50 other mayors in the Mayors for a Guaranteed Income Pilot Program, or I.M.P.A.C.T. The program is a direct cash payments plan for those living on the margin. It could be for as long as 12 months or $6,000 total. The money would not be a loan, but an investment by the city in the qualified resident.

"Who decided the winners or loser, who controls who gets what and what do we know afterward?" asked City Council Member Howard Shook during the council meeting this week.

The city would set aside $2 million for the pilot program. The program, with some overhead administrative costs, will be run by non-profits. The $2 million will go to the Urban League of Greater Atlanta to launch the pilot program with a $500,000 being put up by I.M.P.A.C.T. The city will use two outside resources to administer the donations.

There is no contract with the city, so once the city hands over the $2 million, it won't have any oversight as Atlanta Deputy City Attorney Amber Robinson told the city council.

"We are donating these funds. Because this is a donation rather than a contract for services, we… from a legislative standpoint, is not permitted to dictate the use of the donated funds," Robinson said.

The qualifications are liberal. A family of four can earn as much as $53,000 yearly and still get the cash.

"I.M.P.A.C.T. is another major step toward our vision of One Atlanta – a more equitable, affordable, resilient city," said Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. "This pilot program is an innovative solution to the pervasive economic insecurity and income inequality that exists around the country and it is a bold investment in our most underserved communities."

For those interested, more can be learned about the I.M.P.A.C.T. website at

The Atlanta City Council also passed the Child Savings Account Program which will provide qualifying kindergartners with a one-time deposit of $50 in a savings account reserved for expenses related to education. The city will donate $2 million to Operation HOPE, Inc. to help establish that program.

"The Child Savings Account Program is an investment in our children, their families, and the future of our city," said Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. "I made this commitment during my campaign and am grateful to have it delivered to families across Atlanta. By establishing long-term savings accounts for kindergarteners, our administration is helping to bolster the trajectory of students who are in most need of financial support to pursue their dreams of higher education."

The goal is to offer seed money for students to save up for college and help reduce long-term student debt.