Family Finances

Start at the Beginning: A Person-Centered Design and Evaluation Framework for Policies to Boost Household Cash Flow and Beyond

November 1, 2021  • Financial Security Program, Rachel Black & Riani Carr

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In recognition of the growing momentum and interest from U.S-based policymakers in designing public benefits that boost household cash flow and provide U.S. families with the foundational stability from which they can thrive and progress toward longer term financial security, this paper provides policymakers with a new tool: a Person-Centered Policy Design and Evaluation framework, based on the lived experience and expertise of the people these policies are intended to support.  

This framework is the product of an ongoing partnership between Springboard To Opportunities (“Springboard”), a non-profit organization in Jackson, MS and Aspen FSP to “center the margins” in policy design and evaluation, taking a people-centric approach to institutionalize the voice and influence of impacted communities at every step of the policymaking process.

In April 2021, Springboard kicked off its third year providing $1,000 per month to women participating in the Magnolia Mother’s Trust (MMT), the longest running guaranteed income program in the United States and the only initiative specifically targeting Black women with extremely low incomes living in affordable housing. This framework distills information from interviews and focus groups with dozens of women served by Springboard from 2016 to the present with direct knowledge of and experience with programs to boost household cash flow and merges these unique insights with research providing further context and directions for responsive reforms.

Finally, the paper applies this framework to three policies specifically designed to boost the household incomes of families with children – the expanded Child Tax Credit, the original Child Tax Credit, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)- to see how well each meets performance goals of a person-centered approach to such policies.