By Canisha Bell and Tom Travis
Pregnant women in Flint will receive $1,500 each, no strings attached, through a new program called Rx Kids announced by the State of Michigan and other partners this week. The program aims to provide every pregnant person and infant in the city of Flint, no income requirements attached, for food, prenatal care, rent, or whatever they need most.
After giving birth, moms also will receive $500 per month for their baby’s first year to cover formula, diapers, childcare and other expenses.
The Rx Kids program was announced by State Senator John Cherry, Michigan Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist and Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha of Michigan State University, at a press conference this week at the MSU building downtown.
Enrollment is set to begin in 2024 and designed to continue for at least five birth years of expectant mothers and newborns. The first community-wide program of its kind in the nation, Rx Kids expects to enroll approximately 1,200 mothers per year, based on Flint’s population.
Hanna-Attisha, associate dean for public health and Charles Stewart Mott endowed professor of public health at the MSU College of Human Medicine. will lead the program.
“The entire nation will learn from the city of Flint,” Lt. Gov. Gilchrist declared when announcing $16.5 million from the State’s budget to Rx Kids, the nation’s first citywide prenatal and infant cash allowance program.
All pregnant women and infants who are residents of Flint will be eligible, regardless of the mother’s or family’s income. Families can spend the money in whatever way they think is best.
Where will the $16.5 million come from?
Rx Kids will receive $16.5 million from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant in the FY2024 State of Michigan budget. The announcement in front of the MSU building downtown hosted by Gilchrist, State Senator John Cherry and Hanna-Attisha.
Sen. Cherry explained that the Michigan state budget fund source is from a TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) block grant. It’s a one-time appropriation from the state budget and in addition to philanthropic dollars, that should be enough to fund the Rx Kids program for 5 years, Cherry explained.
Rx Kids is a collaboration between MSU and the University of Michigan. The two universities have partnered with a national expert on child allowances, Professor H. Luke Shaefer, director of Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan. Shaefer has worked collaboratively with communities and policymakers to find new ways to prevent and alleviate poverty.
Shaefer has designed the program in such a way that outcomes can be measured and “We anticipate a major impact on poverty,” Cherry said. “The ongoing data gather will create a mechanism by which we can replicate Rx Kids across the state and other places across the nation.”
The project is estimated to cost $55 million over five years. In April, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation committed a $15 million challenge grant. Further support has come from the Michigan Health Endowment Fund, Community Foundation of Greater Flint, Hurley Foundation, Ruth Mott Foundation, and the Jamie and Denise Jacob Family Foundation. With over $34 million raised to date, the program aims to start in 2024.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed the state’s budget into law July 30, including a line item of $16.5 million for Rx Kids.
Ashley N. Strozier, Flint mom
“Rx Kids is the type of support that will fill a void and offer an intentional level of added support by encouraging all of those important milestones and well-care visits for mom and baby. This is the type of program that can enhance the success rates of healthy kids and healthy families.
“Rx Kids aims to improve health, equity and opportunity by increasing economic stability, housing and food security, health care utilization, and many other outcomes such as hope, joy, and dignity to improve infant and maternal health and well-being and life-long outcomes. Research will evaluate the impact of Rx Kids on participant health and community-wide outcomes,” Flint mom Ashley Strozier quoted in the Rx Kids booklet. The link for the Rx Kids booklet is at the top of this article.
Darwin Hence, Flint dad
“I am a parent and citizen of the city of Flint who has been helping Dr. Mona for alost a year on Rx Kids. When she first introduced it to the group, I instantly knew that it would be a huge task to achieve. With consistency and committed effort, the impossible is becoming a reality for the kids and residents of the city of Flint,” Flint dad, Darwin Hence quoted in the Rx Kids booklet. The link for the booklet is at the top of this article.
“When it’s for everybody there’s no stigma” Hanna-Attisha
“It’s for everybody — not based on income. We’re the poorest city in the state… so when it’s for everybody, there’s no stigma. This [Rx Kids] is society saying we believe in you, we’re walking alongside of you… this is what we do..” Hanna-Attisha said.
“Early childhood science has demonstrated the lifelong consequences of adversity, but also the promise of bold, preventative and justice-driven interventions,” 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.
“An incredibly effective way to reduce child poverty and improve health and well-being” Dr. Shaeffer
“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,” said Shaefer. “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.”
The Ruth Mott Foundation has awarded $1.2 million to Michigan State University for Rx Kids, “We’re incredibly proud to support this innovative citywide approach to investing in Flint children and families, especially in the wake of the water crisis and a global pandemic,” said Raquel Thueme, president of the Ruth Mott Foundation. The Ruth Mott Foundation’s award of $1.2 million over three years is the largest single grant commitment in the history of the Foundation, which has focused its grantmaking on the northern half of Flint since 2016.
“According to U.S. Census data, approximately one in every two children in Flint grows up in poverty – a rate that is more than three times worse than the state and national childhood poverty rates. The childhood poverty rate in some north Flint neighborhoods is as high as 80%, as shown in Census data displayed on the Foundation’s North Flint Community Dashboard. Children living in areas of concentrated poverty are more likely to have poorer health and more likely to experience developmental and academic difficulties.
“By providing funds that families can use for whatever they need most, 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,” according to a press release from the Ruth Mott Foundation.
EVM Reporter Canisha Bell can be reached at email@example.com.
EVM Managing Editor Tom Travis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org