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Since 2001, Family Independence Initiative (FII) has been in the business of direct cash transfers—depositing money right into the bank accounts of families living in poverty, with no restrictions on how to spend it. 

Research has shown that direct cash assistance helps families gain stability, which affords them greater opportunities to take on better-paying jobs and more actively contribute to their local economies. 

The Trust recognizes the promise of direct cash transfers and has made them a component of our strategy to grow household wealth. When COVID-19 hit, it was clear that direct cash also could play a role in helping people survive an unprecedented economic emergency, particularly for undocumented community members who are ineligible for federal stimulus payments and other forms of aid. The California-based FII, with nearly 20 years’ experience investing in families, a solid technological platform for handling the cash transfers, and a growing Illinois presence, was identified as a logical partner. 

FII received $750,000 in grants from the Chicago Community COVID-19 Response Fund—enough to provide 1,500 individuals and families throughout the Chicago region with $500 in emergency cash. Community-based organizations such as the Resurrection Project and Austin Coming Together served as on-the-ground partners, ensuring the funds reached residents with the greatest need. 

Many Americans benefited from direct cash transfers in 2020 through COVID-19 federal stimulus programs. In a nation with complex, deeply entrenched attitudes about poverty, the pandemic may have actually helped shift public perceptions around direct cash for the better. FII is capitalizing on that evolution by focusing more of its efforts on long-term policy solutions, such as earned income credit (EIC) reform, that align with the organization’s strengths-based approach to helping families build more stable financial futures. The EIC is also a major policy priority of the Trust, and we will continue to work alongside FII and other partners to advocate for its expansion in Illinois. 

“ This money will help me pay my rent and buy some essentials for my kids. I’m eternally grateful because I lost my job due to COVID-19. This is such a blessing to me and my three children.”
-Remon, Maywood

“ The same day I received the assistance funds, I’d received a notice from Nicor that a payment was due asap. I was making very small payments and couldn’t seem to catch up for the past few months. I’m so relieved that I can use the money to pay off my bill in full and a little extra to prepay my daughter’s daycare fees. What a blessing!”
-Kari, Chicago