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CityLab Daily: Pandemic Cash Payments Were a Game Changer

Also today: The costs of criminalizing homelessness, and how a traffic camera became London’s top money maker.


After covering the basics, like buying a new car and getting monthly groceries for her five children, Tamika Calhoun focused on saving half of her monthly guaranteed income payments for unexpected expenses.

After covering the basics, like buying a new car and getting monthly groceries for her five children, Tamika Calhoun focused on saving half of her monthly guaranteed income payments for unexpected expenses.

Photographer: Akasha Rabut for Bloomberg

During the pandemic, something surprising happened: The gaping wealth inequality in the U.S. narrowed for the bottom 50% of Americans. That was thanks in part to policies that dispensed cold hard cash, from the stimulus to the child tax credit. While these federal programs have since lapsed, local guaranteed income pilots across the U.S. continue to make the case that cash payments for those in need are more than pandemic stopgaps. 

In this week's episode of The Pay Check podcast, Susan Berfield and Sarah Holder go to Jackson, Mississippi, to look at one guaranteed income project that gives monthly payments to Black mothers in subsidized housing. Aisha Nyandaro, who founded the program, says we don't have to look very far to find a model for how to scale her initiative. "I think the child tax credit is a perfect example of what a targeted guaranteed income program could look like at a federal level," she says. "We got a blueprint right there." Today on CityLab: Listen to the podcast here (or wherever you get your podcasts), and read the accompanying story: How Cash Payments Changed Low-Income Americans’ Lives