Partner Spotlight: Springboard to Opportunities Goes Beyond CSAs with Report on Racialized Social Exclusion
Editor’s Note: While the 1:1 Fund newsletter often shares stories about savers at one our 16 1:1 Fund partner sites, this story focuses on related research that one of our 1:1 Fund sites, Springboard to Opportunities, has conducted with New America to better understand the systemic barriers that hinder their families’ ability to build savings for the future. This is just one example of how 1:1 Fund partners are not only helping low-income families to save, but also addressing larger challenges surrounding economic mobility.
Springboard to Opportunities, a member of the 1:1 Fund, connects families living in affordable housing in Jackson, Mississippi, with resources and programs that help them advance themselves in school, work and life. They added CSAs to their “radically resident-driven” service model in the summer of 2017.
To better understand the barriers to social mobility their residents face, Springboard to Opportunities partnered with New America’s Family-Centered Social Policy program to release Becoming Visible: Race, Economic Security and Political Voice in Jackson, Mississippi in November 2017. Springboard to Opportunities staff conducted focus groups with 70 residents of four affordable housing communities in Jackson, all of whom identify as Black or mixed-race Black.
The report reveals how the design of government assistance programs—like Mississippi mandating drug testing for welfare recipients—act in racialized and gendered ways to stigmatize or exclude their recipients. “The stigma associated with public assistance is so potent that the support received can come at the cost of one’s time, dignity and pride, all the while often exacerbating the financial insecurity they were intended to improve,” the authors assert.
Public assistance programs limit eligibility to those with very little in savings. The report argues that these asset limits “prohibit participants from building even a modest emergency fund that would enable them to transition off assistance.” These programs, ostensibly designed to lift people out of poverty, discourage families from building the small savings that make children more likely to go to and graduate from college.
Negative experiences with caseworkers were nearly universal, according to the focus group interviews. One resident said that, “people in government look at you a certain way because you need assistance.” Some residents said that these negative experiences discouraged them from seeking benefits, and frequent issues with missing paperwork signaled to them that their needs were not a priority.
The report argues that policymakers should create programs “around the needs and wants of the families the policy is intended to serve.” Among the solutions the paper proposes is a universal basic income—a proposal in which every citizen or permanent resident receives a basic stipend from the government with no strings attached—to eliminate the “paternalistic influence” of current social safety net programs.