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Mother of 6 says San Antonio basic-income program allowed her to rent a home and buy shoes for her kids

San Antonio skyline
San Antonio is one of several cities across the country piloting guaranteed basic-income programs.Sean Pavone / Getty
  • Monique Gonzalez, 41, is a participant in San Antonio's guaranteed basic-income program.

  • The program provides no-strings payments to low-income families, helping them secure housing.

  • With basic-income, Gonzalez has started renting a house and can afford school supplies for her kids.

Monique Gonzalez described the day she and her six children walked into the shoe store as life-changing.

In the past, Gonzalez often wasn't able to afford shoes for her family. But, in 2020, her circumstances changed. Seeing her daughters' faces light up with excitement over their new Converse is a moment she will never forget.

Gonzalez, 41, is a participant in San Antonio's guaranteed basic-income program. Her family has been receiving no-string-attached payments since 2020 through the nonprofit UpTogether. She said the extra income has helped her find secure housing, pay bills, and afford school supplies for her children.

"It absolutely makes you feel 100% better about yourself — seeing that you can provide for your kids' needs," she said. "But when you can provide for a want every once in a while, it just it puts it over the top."

San Antonio is one of several cities nationwide — and a few cities in Texas — piloting guaranteed basic-income programs. Over a set time period, programs offer no-strings-attached cash payments to low-income individuals. Participants in cities like Denver, Austin, Boston, Minneapolis, and Durham, North Carolina, have reported using the money to secure housing, buy groceries, afford transportation, and pay off debt.

UpTogether led San Antonio's programs, first investing $5,108 in each of the 1,000 individuals participating over a 25-month period. Participants received an initial $1,908 payment in December 2020, followed by eight quarterly payments of $400 between April 2021 and January 2023. Program funding came from the city, foundations, and private funders.

Participants had household incomes that fell below 150% of the federal poverty line — which is $47,340 for a family of seven — and many were facing financial hardship because of the pandemic.

UpTogether is running an additional income pilot that will end in December 2024, giving 25 UpTogether participants $500 a month for 18 months.

Gonzalez's family was enrolled in both income programs. With GBI, she has been able to make choices that are best for her and her children, who are between the ages of eight and 18.

"You're deciding what's best for your family, you're the expert on your family," she said. "Being able to utilize these funds in a manner that puts you back into control — it boosts your confidence."

Monique and her family stand in front of a Christmas tree.
Monique Gonzalez, 41, is a participant in San Antonio's basic-income program. She is a mother of six.Monique Gonzalez

Basic-income allowed Gonzalez to move her family out of a motel

Gonzalez has lived in San Antonio all her life. Prior to being enrolled in the income programs, she and her family had been living in a motel.

She had recently gone through a divorce, and her ex-husband had been the only income earner and in change of all household finances. After their separation, Gonzalez said she and her children were left housing and food insecure.

With the extra few hundred dollars from her basic-income payments, she was able to start renting a house. She had been struggling to pay the required deposit and application fee, along with an initial rent payment, and she said the GBI program lifted her out of that cycle.

Today, Gonzalez is a volunteer for families who are working through Child Protective Services cases in the court system. She gets work expenses reimbursed, but she doesn't get a paycheck. Because of her responsibilities and large family, she said it is difficult to hold a traditional 9-to-5 job.

She recently got engaged, and her fiancé — who also has three children — works in construction framing. Gonzalez estimates they bring in a couple thousand dollars a month, but their expenses are difficult to afford without income support.

Being able to meet her family's needs "just makes you feel worth something," Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez said she often has to "triage" expenses between members of her family

Even with basic-income payments, Gonzalez said she is still stretching her money. She likened her spending to "triaging," meaning she usually can only spend money on the immediate expenses that her family needs most.

For example, her children love going to the park to barbecue, but spending money for charcoal and lighter fluid might mean she can't afford dish soap, she said.

"Wherever we pulled that $10 from, having to replace that is hard," she said. "It's the hardest thing ever and something nobody should have to do, but we do it all the time."

She feels anxious about the end of the year when the GBI program ends. Prior to basic-income payments, she had been reliant on local donation programs to get school supplies, Christmas gifts, and clothing.

Gonzalez and her family are still on a tight budget, but they have found a more stable way of life with basic-income payments. She's worried "that's going to change again," when the programs end.

Local and state governments in Arizona, South Dakota, Iowa, and parts of Texas are working to ban GBI programs. Many Republican lawmakers have called basic-income socialist and said it makes people too reliant on the government.

Gonzalez wishes more people understood that, to her, GBI isn't free money: It is the daily support she and her family need, and it's helping her make financial choices for the future.

Basic-income isn't a handout, she said, it's a hand-up.

"It's teaching families different ways of life than we're used to," Gonzalez said. "And it's teaching us not to just settle for basic right to work, but work harder and smarter for what we need for our families."

Have you benefited from a guaranteed basic-income program in San Antonio or elsewhere? Are you willing to share how you're spending your money? Reach out to this reporter at allisonkelly@insider.com.

Read the original article on Business Insider