Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Food for Free unload produce for delivery to people who are food insecure in Cambridge’s Central Square on Oct. 16, 2019. (Photo: Marc Levy)

Nearly 400 Cambridge households with children are already getting $500 monthly cash payments through Rise Up Cambridge, the city’s $22 million assistance program announced in May. The payments began delivery the week of June 25, ahead of the expected June 30 start date, city spokespeople said Wednesday.

The city expects to have upward of 2,000 households apply before July 31; more than 1,000 applications were made for the 18-month program within its first 24 hours, starting June 1.

The need was underlined in a data briefing released June 27 by the Cambridge Community Foundation, a partner in Rise Up Cambridge with the city, Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui’s office and the Cambridge Economic Opportunity Committee.

The cost of living in Cambridge soars 73 percent above the national average, so low-income families face enormous challenges, according to the briefing. Rise Up Cambridge aims to support households in which income is up to 250 percent of the federal poverty line – $66,250 for a family of four. Around 60 percent of Cambridge’s African American households with children make half or less of what the Economic Policy Institute deems a living wage.

The eligible households represent around 7,000 residents – more than half of whom are 21 or younger, with the largest share being under 12, according to the briefing. That’s nearly 4,000 Cambridge children.

Research spanning decades has shown that even modest amounts of unconditional cash can help struggling families significantly, allowing them to catch their breath and make tangible progress by granting them the choice and power to decide their own path, CCF said.

Meanwhile, “it is nearly impossible to get families out of poverty given the current policies at the federal level,” said foundation president Geeta Pradhan in a press release.”When you think about what it costs to live in Cambridge, including the incredibly high cost of housing and child care, what do you have left to live on? What is left to invest in yourself and your children to get ahead in life?”

“Unless these big policy issues are dealt with, all we are left with as a foundation and a city is our ability to make sure these families are stable and surviving,” Pradhan said.