Philadelphia officials announced Monday they are fundraising to launch a trial program to give $1,000 monthly cash payments to expectant mothers who live in certain communities.
The Philadelphia Department of Public Health aims to start the Philly Joy Bank pilot in early 2024 to help ease racial disparities in infant mortality rates.
Philadelphia has the highest infant mortality rate during a child’s first year of life of the 10 most populated US cities, the city said.
“Infant mortality in Philadelphia is a solvable crisis,” health commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole declared in a statement.
“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.”
According to data from the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, the infant mortality rate (deaths per 1,000 live births) in Philadelphia was 6.1 in 2017 — higher than the US rate of 5.8.
A 2021 city report found non-Hispanic black women accounted for 58% of pregnancy-related deaths from 2013 to 2018, even though they were only responsible for 43% of births in Philadelphia during that period.
As part of the trial, new mothers are expected to receive payments for 18 months, including one year postpartum, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
To qualify, pregnant women must have an annual household income of less than $100,000.
The Philly Joy Bank will primarily target those who live in the Cobbs Creek, Strawberry Mansion, and Nicetown-Tioga neighborhoods, as their rates of low birth weights are the highest in the city, officials said.
There are no rules for how the money must be spent.
In addition to the cash, new mothers are also promised “voluntary support,” like home visits, lactation support, doulas, and financial counseling.
The city said it hopes to raise $6 million for the program, having already secured $3 million so far from the William Penn Foundation and Spring Point Partners.
This funding is enough to help around 250 pregnant mothers.
Philadelphia is not the first city to start a program like this.
NYC launched the Bridge Project in 2021, providing up to $1,000 every month for three years with no strings attached.
The first phase targeted mothers living in Washington Heights, Inwood, and Central Harlem.