Our Response to Covid-19
In response to families’ financial hardships as a result of COVID-19, LIFT distributed emergency cash transfers of $1,100 to each of the 800+ families in our program – and also to several families that recently graduated from LIFT – totaling more than $1M in direct cash assistance to families in need.
This support was made possible by the generosity of our partners, including: The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, Angeleno Fund, Bainum Family Foundation, FII, Good+, Katherine Bradley and CityBridge Foundation, Neuberger Berman, OneFamily LA, The McCance Foundation, Robin Hood, United Way of NYC, Richard W. Goldman Family Foundation, Kresge Foundation, Chris and Crystal Sacca, Stand Together, and countless generous individual donors – our LIFTers.
In addition to emergency cash relief, we also pivoted our entire program from physical to virtual coaching in order to keep our families safer without falling behind on progress toward their goals. In the first month of coaching, parents and coaches held more than 400 virtual meetings – a significant increase from the 30 days prior – and continue to demonstrate tenacity toward achieving their dreams of economic mobility.
The LIFT Family Goal Fund
As parents persist through LIFT’s coaching program, they receive $150 every three months (regardless of documentation status) that they can spend in any way they see fit — be it paying a heating bill during a Chicago winter that would otherwise require credit card debt, starting an emergency savings fund to weather unexpected future expenses, or paying to take a Certified Nursing Assistant licensing exam on their path to a higher paying job.
Regardless of how parents ultimately spend their Fund, the intention is the same—to reduce stress from the churn of daily expenses, help them stay on track, and empower them to make real progress towards their dreams and aspirations.
After two years of implementing the Family Goal Fund, one thing has become abundantly clear: parents make progress when you invest in them.
What We’ve Learned
As of April 2020 (not inclusive of the emergency funds distributed for COVID-19), LIFT has issued nearly $340,000 to over 700 families.
Parents spent just over 30% of their funds on food or groceries, 20% on transportation needs like gas or car repairs, and nearly 10% on expenses directly related to goals. Parents have also used the cash infusion to change the trajectory for their entire family; several have started college savings accounts for their children while others used the funds to register small businesses, giving them greater control of their income.
Parents who receive the Family Goal Fund make more progress towards their goals, faster.
Among parents who engaged in the program for at least one year, those that received the Family Goal Fund set and completed more goals than those who did not, suggesting that access to the financial support helped LIFT families more intentionally plan for and achieve long-term goals. Sixty-two percent of parents who received the Fund were able to save consistently, compared to only 39% of parents who did not receive funds.
More cash leads to more coaching.
LIFT parents meet with their coach every 26 days on average, and fewer than 2% of members regularly have meetings three months apart. The goal fund has led to higher rates of retention in our program and an uptick in the frequency of meetings.
Our Message to Policymakers
We can trust parents. If given access to funds—and the right to choose how to spend it—our data show that parents spend on what they need most.
Fewer restrictions, more results. Existing cash and cash-like supports such as food stamps (SNAP), welfare (TANF), and the rest (e.g. WIC) are vital resources that help families get by. Offering more of these supports, not less, is the most effective way of reducing child poverty.
More bang for your (public) buck. Research shows that increasing families’ incomes during a child’s earliest years leads to better long-term academic performance, health outcomes, and employment for their children. Our results show that even small cash infusions can help by pulling parents back from the brink of crisis and making them more successful at achieving educational, career, and financial goals.