Arlington’s Guarantee: Unconditional cash for families in need

Image Arlington’s Guarantee: Unconditional cash for families in need

Did you know: “Guaranteed income” and Universal Basic Income (UBI) are not the same? As a guaranteed income pilot, Arlington’s Guarantee is not promoting UBI. Learn more about the key differences here.

Arlington’s Guarantee is a new guaranteed income pilot that aims to provide cash relief of $500 to 200 low income working families in Arlington every month for 18 months. Please note: This program is not open for referrals from the general public. The 200 participants are randomly selected from a group meeting the eligibility criteria.

Launched in partnership with Arlington County Department of Human Services, this new initiative equips families with funds that can be used for whatever is needed most in real time– paying off debt, pursuing education or employment goals, college savings for kids, or allowing parents more time with their children and less time away from home in a second job.

175 participants have been funded in the pilot, with many saying it has given them hope after feeling “incredibly hopeless” for months or even years. One participant, a single mother who works full time, says this assistance will give her the much needed breathing room to finish her GED and attend nursing school.

The case for guaranteed income nationally and in Arlington is undeniable. Nearly 24,300 people, or about 10,000 households in Arlington, make under 30% of the area median income (AMI), or $42,690 for a family of four. Working low income families rely on a combination of earned income, public benefits, and community supports to survive. With even a minor rise in earnings, these families can lose their eligibilities for subsidies for health care, food, child care, transportation, and housing, meaning the worker has to refuse raises and promotions that could ultimately leave their family worse off. This is known as the The Cliff Effect. Arlington’s Guarantee has secured local and state agency commitments to ensure the monthly cash payments do not affect benefits and subsidies eligibilities, allowing these families more flexibility without worrying about losing their benefits.


Arlington’s Guarantee is an opportunity for donors to support a pilot that holistically and unconditionally promotes power, dignity, and belonging for families in Arlington, and in doing so, positions our community for a more equitable future for all. All administrative costs have been covered by a grant from the Kresge Foundation, so 100% of what is contributed to this fund will go directly into the hands of people in our community who need it. By financially supporting Arlington’s Guarantee, donors have the opportunity to invest directly in local families and the path towards economic justice and equity.


PRIORITIZING power, dignity, and belonging

Just as important as income and assets are power and autonomy—people’s sense of control over the trajectory of their lives—and being valued in community—their sense of belonging and social capital. Guaranteed income touches each of these areas by bringing in extra income, allowing people choice over how to use it, and freeing up personal bandwidth to connect with others in the community. Guaranteed income:

Realigning resources to those who need it most
Participants are able to better pursue more gainful employment, educational goals, and save money
Instead of focusing on how people are spending the money, it asks how is it changing their lives

DESIGNING a targeted, holistic initiative

Arlington’s Guarantee supports 200 very low income households with children who receive Arlington County Housing Grants. Also included in our sample are immigrants facing significant barriers and residents who are returning to the community after incarceration. Arlington’s Guarantee supports participants with:

for 200 randomly selected working families receiving Housing Grants, with carve outs for significantly isolated immigrant households and people returning from incarceration
with trained mobility coaches
as Arlington’s Guarantee income will not count as income toward benefits eligibilities

EVALUATING impacts and outcomes

A team of experts have designed a comprehensive data and evaluation plan that will position the pilot as a resource for future policy, philanthropy, and funding decisions, both locally and outside the region. Key components of the evaluation plan include:

are being randomly selected and evaluated over the pilot period in addition to the participants
is providing technical support on the evaluation design
are being conducted upon enrollment and every 6 months, capturing a range of quantitative and qualitative metrics

are being used in program evaluation, including surveys for comparison households and participants, and Arlington DHS administrative data systems


A GROWING national movement

The moral and economic mandate for guaranteed income, particularly for low income, vulnerable, and historically marginalized groups continues to be proven by pilot initiatives around the country. With its priorities, design, and comprehensive evaluation plan, Arlington’s Guarantee is primed to share its own stories of power, dignity, and belonging in the days to come.


Less anxiety and depression. More full time employment.

[Stockton Demonstration] A California city gave some residents $500 per month. After a year, the group wound up with more full-time jobs, less depression, and a number of other positive outcomes. Read the key findings.

“I’m able to pay all my bills.”

[Ms. Magazine] In Mississippi, a group of guaranteed income pilot participants were able to collectively pay off more than $10,000 in predatory debt. After 6 months in the pilot, not one participant reported the need to borrow money, down from 60% in the previous term. Read full story.

Op-Ed: What even a modest guaranteed income might have done for my mom

[Los Angeles Times] “The trauma of poverty was etched in her life in small ways and big. She battled high blood pressure and arthritis; she suffered depression and anxiety, her mind perpetually racing because we didn’t have the savings to weather an emergency.” Read full story.

Guaranteed Income and the Safety Net

[New America] “We will focus the attention of this piece not on the efficacy of a guaranteed income, but instead on how it might be implemented in complementary and additive ways to existing safety net supports. Specifically, we will examine what is known—and what is yet to be discovered—about the relationships between guaranteed income interventions and other social safety net policies.” Read full story.

What a National Guaranteed Income Could Look Like

[Bloomberg] “While localized projects are already showing signs of promise, they only cover a small fraction of the people in need. The ultimate goal for proponents of such pilots is to build toward a comprehensive federal guaranteed income program that could fill these gaps. But what would that look like?” Read full story.

GETTING INVOLVED in the movement

Arlington’s Guarantee is an opportunity for donors to support a pilot that holistically and unconditionally promotes power, dignity, and belonging for families in Arlington, and in doing so, positions our community for a more equitable future for all.

If you have questions about Arlington’s Guarantee or economic mobility in Arlington, please contact Anne Anne Vor der Bruegge, Director of Grants and Initiatives.

Related Content

economic mobility
Ensuring that people of all economic backgrounds can thrive is part of assuring Arlington’s vitality. Learn more
shared prosperity
This public-private partnership represents a re-design of the safety net system. Learn more
The Cliff Effect refers to the drop off in eligibility for subsidies for health care, food, child care, transportation, or housing that working low-income families experience with even a minor rise in earnings. Learn more