The Georgia Resilience and Opportunity (GRO) Fund is expanding its flagship guaranteed income program, In Her Hands, into additional Atlanta communities this year. The aim is to provide women of color juggling the demands of employment, housing, and raising children with a baseline minimum income, so they can climb the economic ladder to greater stability.

The In Her Hands pilot initiative, a joint effort between the GRO fund and GiveDirectly, which started in fall 2022, currently serves 650 women of color in the Old Fourth Ward, College Park, and rural Clay-Randolph-Terrell Counties, southwest of Albany. With a new $6.2 million grant from the Arthur Blank Foundation, the GRO Fund will serve 200 additional women in the English Avenue and Vine City neighborhoods this year.

Each participant receives an average of $850 per month for two years that they can use to pay down debt, buy groceries, cover childcare, or anything else that will bolster their economic stability. To be eligible, their income must be less than twice the federal poverty level, which amounts to $40,880 for a family of two.

It’s the first guaranteed income program of its kind in Georgia, aligning with one of the top recommendations in the Atlanta Wealth Building Initiative’s Building Black Wealth report for closing the city’s sharp racial wealth divide.

The report found that white Atlanta families have a median household income of $83,722–three times higher than Black families’ median income of $28,105. As a result, white Atlanta households have a staggering 46 times more wealth than Black households: $238,355 for white families, compared to just $5,180 for Black ones.

Our look into the In Her Hands Initiative is part three of a series analyzing Atlanta’s racial wealth gap, baby bonds as a potential solution to increase Black wealth–and now, guaranteed income. To learn more, Al ilmu spoke with Tamicka Royal, one participant who’s a flight attendant for a subsidiary of American Airlines, and the GRO Fund’s executive director and founder, Hope Wollensack.

A Participant’s Perspective

Royal found the program by chance. She was walking her dog on a sunny day in downtown Atlanta when she came across a woman giving out flyers for the In Her Hands initiative.

“She literally put a flyer in my hands,” said Royal.

That was in early 2022. At that point, Royal hadn’t had a full-time job since mid-2021, when she suffered an attack from a man near her downtown Atlanta apartment that left her too injured to work as an independent property manager. Subsequently, her landlord evicted her and her daughter from their home.

Tamicka Royal, age 46

Royal said that when she first read the flyer offering guaranteed monthly income, she felt some disbelief. “You’re just going to give me a whole bunch of money and you’re not going to ask any questions?” was her reaction.

The woman handing out flyers gave Royal simple instructions to go to the GRO Fund website on the flyer, fill out the application, and wait to receive a call. Royal followed the instructions and was soon enrolled into the initiative, starting in September 2022.

Since then, the $700 per month Royal has received from In Her Hands has helped her make ends meet while she trained to become a flight attendant. “It’s helped me get from here to there,” said Royal. “Now I’m here and in my right mind.”

The money is deposited directly into her bank account. All she has to do is fill out a short survey that confirms that she received the funds, and she can use it in whatever way she sees fit.

“In Her Hands is like a silent partner. No questions asked. They just verify the funds,” said Royal. “They helped me get a car, my Mustang.” With the car, she was able to start working as a delivery driver, so having the money to pay the car note was critical, she said.

Royal finished her flight attendant training last October and is working for a subsidiary of American Airlines. She’s still looking for permanent housing for herself and her daughter. “I’m homeless, but I’m a flight attendant, I’m proud of it, and In Her Hands made it possible,” said Royal.

First-year outcomes for ‘In Her Hands’

The GRO Fund was born out of the Old Fourth Ward Economic Security Task Force, a coalition put together by Atlanta City Councilmember Amir Farokhi. It’s now a non-profit organization tasked with addressing Atlanta’s wealth gap.

“[Councilman Farokhi] brought together a task force that included the labor community, the faith community, and community members within the neighborhood–the Old Fourth Ward–to think about the root causes of economic security and find bold solutions to address the pervasive lack of economic security,” said Wollensack, the GRO Fund founder.

The task force’s principal recommendation was a guaranteed income program focused on Black women. That became the In Her Hands initiative. The average woman participating has a job, Wollensack said, but only earns about $15,000 annually and carries about $35,000 in debt, while raising at least one child.

Now that the first year of the two-year program is over, the GRO Fund is assessing what kind of impact the monthly income supplement is making. According to Wollensack, they’re finding that participants, like Royal, typically see big improvements in financial well-being in the first six months or so, along with gains in employment and job satisfaction.

“Contrary to popular belief–that people will stop working if they have a guaranteed income–we saw a 15% rise in full-time employment within the first six months in the program,” said Wollensack.

The women also reported notable improvements in housing stability and food security. “When you're living paycheck to paycheck, it's really hard to maintain stable housing. And so participants reported a 20% increase in their ability to pay their full rent,” said Wollensack.

“Being able to afford the bills, being able to afford food that will last them throughout the month. These are things that are really essential. And we saw pretty dramatic improvements,” she added.

What’s next?

Next, the GRO Fund will expand In Her Hands to 200 more Atlanta women and launch the baby bonds pilot program with a guaranteed income component. Up to 250 young people, ages 15 to 24, who enroll in that program–still in the fundraising stage–will receive roughly $500 a month for the duration of the six-year program.

The GRO Fund intends to use the findings of the guaranteed income and baby bonds programs to influence public policy. “The thesis or the public policy outcome is quite simple. There should be an income floor across the country, and these pilot programs are a starting place for developing what that income floor could look like right now,” said Wollensack.

She sees these pilot guaranteed income programs as a way to generate measurable evidence for how a comprehensive national guaranteed income policy can address poverty at its roots for people struggling to make ends meet.

“We're really talking about addressing the most acute needs of one in seven American families– it's a lot of people–and raising up the minimum floor so that everyone can access that opportunity,” said Wollensack. “It could start at the state level, or we could be looking at a federal program that helps to ensure there's an income floor to support families.”

There’s currently a bill in Congress for a national guaranteed income pilot program. It was introduced by Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) in September and has been referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means.

Applications for In Her Hands’ second phase in the Vine City and English Avenue neighborhoods will open in the coming months. Residents who wish to participate can subscribe for updates at this link or on the GRO Fund’s website.

Join the Conversation

10 Comments

    1. I emailed them but the response stated they have pre-accessed areas . Upon further researching, I saw the geographic includes College Park, Old fourth Ward and South Fulton. Hope this helps . Good luck🫶🏽

  1. I am interested in the program.wanting on my disability for3& half years I have never surfered like this before I am losing everything I ever had I it been a long 3 years for me and my grandkids please help with any means you can please

  2. How do I enroll in program I’m 38 years old with 5 kids and 2 grandchildren that all live with me. I just recently moved due to domestic violence please I am in need of help..

  3. I live in Columbus GA. Does this program cover my area. If not, what program does? Please help with any information thank you.

  4. I am a 45-year-old woman that lives in Atlanta area and needs help very badly how do I sign up for the program please?

  5. I'm 55 I'm about to get evicted I had a roommate helping me out we was splitting the bills her mom got sick she moved out to care for mom..which I get..but it left me in bind.i receive ssi.i really needs help please 🙏

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