Pregnant mother allowance program slated to receive $15M grant

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Published: Apr. 20, 2023 at 2:10 PM EDT
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FLINT, Mich. (WNEM) - A new program created by Michigan State University to help fight childhood poverty is slated to receive a $15 million challenge grant from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation if they can one-to-one match the same amount raised by other sources.

The program, Rx Kids, is an initiative to provide direct cash payments to mothers in Flint during pregnancy and throughout the first year of a child’s life. Rx Kids will be the first citywide program of its kind in the U.S.

Through Rx Kids, families will be “prescribed” a total of $7,500 in cash, which will include a one-time $1,500 payment to expectant mothers mid-pregnancy, followed by a $500 per-month payment for the first year of a child’s life.

All pregnant women and infants residing in the city of Flint will be eligible for the program, regardless of the mother’s or family’s income. Families can spend the money on whatever they need most.

By providing funds for families, Rx Kids aims to disrupt a root cause of inequities and disparities while supporting families with dignity and trust during the developmentally crucial first year of a child’s life.

“We’re supporting Rx Kids because of the boldness of its approach to significantly reducing childhood poverty and associated negative health effects,” said Ridgway White, Mott Foundation president and CEO. “While similar projects elsewhere have focused on smaller or more unique cohorts, nothing like this has been done on a citywide scale. We’re excited to see how it could help children and families — both in Flint and throughout the country.”

According to five-year estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2020 American Community Survey, Flint’s overall childhood poverty rate is approximately 50 percent, which is far above the state and national rates of approximately 16 percent. In many areas of Flint, the poverty rate for kids under 5 exceeds 80 precent. The impacts of poverty, the water crisis, and the pandemic mean local children face daunting obstacles to growing up healthy.

“Early childhood science has demonstrated the lifelong consequences of adversity, but also the promise of bold, preventative and justice-driven interventions,” said Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, the program’s leader.

Hanna-Attisha is the associate dean for public health and the Charles Stewart Mott endowed professor of public health at the MSU College of Human Medicine. A nationally recognized pediatrician, Hanna-Attisha is the founding director of the MSU-Hurley Children’s Hospital Pediatric Public Health Initiative, a model community-partnered program working to improve child health equity.

“Driven by our visionary Flint parents and children, Rx Kids is a much-needed infusion of joy, hope and opportunity for the entire city,” she said. “Rx Kids is another example of Flint shining a spotlight on injustice and rolling up our sleeves to systemically build a better tomorrow not just for Flint kids — but for kids and communities everywhere.”

MSU has collaborated with the University of Michigan and have partnered with a national expert on child allowances, Professor H. Luke Shaefer. As director of poverty solutions at U-M, Shaefer has a long record of working collaboratively with communities and policymakers to find new ways to prevent and alleviate poverty.

“The evidence is piling up that direct cash payments to families with children are an incredibly effective way to reduce child poverty and improve health and well-being. Rx Kids takes this work to the next level,” Shaefer said. “We’re excited to see the immense good that can be accomplished by supporting all expectant and new mothers across the entire city of Flint, and to share these lessons with the nation.”

MSU said the program is slated to begin enrollment in 2024 with the intent of continuing for at least five birth years of expectant mothers and newborns. The project is estimated to cost a total of $55 million for that timeline.

The Greater Flint Health Coalition will serve as a key community partner, supporting outreach and increasing awareness of and participation in the program.

The Rx Kids team is actively pursuing additional public and private funding for the program with a growing list of partners and endorsers.

Visit the program’s website to learn more about Rx Kids.

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