Results of Cash Transfers to San Antonio Families Show Strength of Community and Need for More Government Investments

An assessment of a two-year direct cash transfer program in San Antonio found that participants experienced increased financial stability, well-being and community engagement. In order to sustain participants’ progress, UpTogether recommends more government investments. The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) evaluated the program. 

UpTogether led the pilot which invested $5,108 each in 1,000 individuals and families over a 25-month period beginning in December 2020. Participants’ household incomes fell below 150% of the federal poverty line and they faced additional financial hardship because of the pandemic, such as a job loss. Participants received an initial payment of $1,908 in December 2020, followed by eight quarterly payments of $400 from April 2021 through January 2023.

Funding for this $5 million pilot was provided by the City of San Antonio, H. E. Butt Foundation, Methodist Healthcare Ministries, San Antonio Area Foundation, and several other local and national private funders. Additional dollars were granted to commission the UTSA study.

The assessment, based on surveys of participants, found 79% reported that the cash investments had a positive impact on their lives.  Some viewed the cash payments as critical to their day-to-day survival. 

“For my kids, it’s helped me get shoes, school supplies, gifts for Christmas –  a lot of things we put on the back burner because we just didn’t have the money. I greatly appreciate this program,” said Monique Gonzalez, participant and mother of six children. “My child is starting softball. This has given us the opportunity to try things that are important to their future.”

“It secured my housing. It secured my transportation. And it did it by keeping my dignity by not having to fill out papers and tell people my struggle. It secured my life,” said Ingrid Sullivan, a participant with four children and three grandchildren. “I invested in the biggest needs for my family with this money.”

“Our experience in San Antonio provides more evidence that unrestricted cash assistance is a powerful tool to help families achieve financial stability and alleviate stress,” said UpTogether CEO Jesús Gerena. ”The data also shows that we need deeper and sustained investments in people and their communities to help families thrive long term.”

Participants reported that being able to pay their bills alleviated chronic stress. They also reported spending more time with family and loved ones and having more mental space to enjoy life and worry less. 

“We have more opportunities to be happy, be content and be healthy. This helped to eliminate a lot of the stressors we have,” said Gonzalez.

“I felt supported for the first time ever. I didn’t know what it felt like before this,” said Sullivan. 

Despite positive impacts of cash payments, some participants still experienced significant hardship, including financially. Participants continued to deal with a lack of employment prospects, educational opportunities, and transportation and healthcare concerns. Living in a neighborhood with higher poverty concentrations was associated with slower income growth, and income levels influenced the likelihood of pursuing education. 

“Too often, we do not get a chance to see and understand the challenges our neighbors across the city are facing. This project provides more evidence that all families want the best opportunities for themselves and their children. When they have necessary resources, they can thrive,” says Perri Rosheger, Vice President of Community Engagement at the H. E. Butt Foundation.  

“We know the value of working collaboratively with others, as we work to close opportunity gaps and help individuals and families in our community accomplish their personal and financial goals,” said Lisa Brunsvold, Interim CEO at the San Antonio Area Foundation. “Projects like this demonstrate that our community members know what they need and have the ability to thrive if they are given the opportunity to do so.”

Participants report being able to create meaningful opportunities to provide for and connect with their families, and increase their community engagement. For example, they had the opportunity to join and create groups on the UpTogether Connect online community to share their experiences and provide support to each other. Those who used UpTogether Connect were more engaged in their communities, both on and offline.

“At Methodist Healthcare Ministries, we know that health is more than what happens at a doctor’s office,” said Jaime Wesolowski, President & CEO of Methodist Healthcare Ministries of South Texas, Inc.As the economic conditions of individuals, families, and communities can directly impact their health and well-being, it is critical for MHM to understand and invest in approaches, such as cash assistance, that will allow them to make decisions about what works best for them and their families.”

UpTogether made policy recommendations based on the findings, as well as additional feedback from participants. The recommendations  include the need for more direct cash investment initiatives with more frequent and higher payment amounts, as well as more educational opportunities and affordable housing.

“The totality of challenges participants faced should compel policymakers to remove existing barriers inhibiting equitable health, education, and employment outcomes,” said Gerena. “Governments have the financial resources to redirect money away from wasteful spending projects to investing directly in people.”

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