Monday, June 24, 2024

City Manager Yi-An Huang and Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui announcing Rise Up Cambridge on May 2 at City Hall. (Photo: Marc Levy)

There were more than 1,000 applications for Rise Up Cambridge within the program’s first 24 hours, representing around half of the families eligible for the cash payments, the City Manager’s Office said Friday.

The program, which began taking applications Thursday, will make $500 direct payments to families for 18 months starting June 30. The recipients are low-income Cambridge households with children 21 or younger and earning at or below 250 percent of the federal poverty level –some 7,000 people in a city of 120,000, according to a city analysis. Rise Up Cambridge is funded with $22 million from federal Covid-recovery money known as the American Rescue Plan Act.

Cambridge is the first city in the nation to introduce a non-lottery program to provide direct cash assistance to all eligible families, officials said.

Findings from earlier direct-payment programs show that recipients use the money largely on food, housing, transportation and utilities, U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley said during the May 2 announcement of the program in Cambridge City Hall.

“Every Cambridge resident deserves to have a basic level of economic stability,” City Manager Yi-An Huang said in a Friday press release. “Each family has unique needs and should be empowered to make their own financial decisions, whether related to education, child care, housing, food or just enjoying life’s moments.”

According to the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington, D.C., think tank, it costs $130,740 for a household with two parents and two children to live in Cambridge, while the federal poverty level for the same household is $13,000, said Geeta Pradhan, president of the Cambridge Community Foundation.

The foundation is a partner in Rise Up Cambridge with the city and Cambridge Economic Opportunity Committee. The executive director there, Tina Alu, noted that outreach teams are helping residents with the applications at sites across the city, and in eight languages.

“Rise Up will be deeply impactful for so many of our low-income families,” Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui said in the press release. “We are thrilled at the number of applications that came in on the first day of the program. The Rise Up team looks forward to working with our Cambridge families to improve their financial stability.”

Registration for Rise Up Cambridge is open through July 31. Information is at cambridgema.gov/riseup.