New Pilot Program Aims to Improve Economic Mobility for Low-income Families

The Family Independence Initiative-Greater Boston (FII), in partnership with the Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) and the City of Boston have announced the launch of a multimillion-dollar, three-year pilot project called the “Trust and Invest Col-laborative.”

The initiative is a systems transformation research and learning pilot where the FII model will be layered on to traditional DTA services and benefits through DTA’s Boston-area offices. 

This collaborative pilot will involve staff and fami-lies from DTA, City of Boston, and FII-Greater Boston to explore policy changes that would support asset building, reduce barriers to employment, and benefit the overall health and well-being of families living with low incomes and their children.

Over three years, the pilot plans to enroll a total of 400 families from Greater Boston including a minimum of 100 families from the City of Cambridge, and a mini-mum of 200 families receiving Transitional Aid to Fami-lies with Dependent Children (TAFDC), DTA’s core eco-nomic assistance program. TAFDC is a joint state and federally funded program that provides economic assistance and supportive services to families and children with little or no assets or income.

“All families across the United States should have access to the investment and agency needed to achieve their dreams,” said Jesús Gerena, Chief Executive Officer of The Family Independence Initiative. “We are confident families will continue to demonstrate to us how to reimagine our systemic investments in them. The Trust and Invest Collaborative and its partners are leading the country in piloting a new approach to accelerating economic and social mobility. Families in Cambridge, Boston and beyond will benefit and be at the forefront of changing the system.”

The partners involved are also in the process of formalizing existing relationships with the Cambridge Community Foundation and the City of Cambridge into this pilot as well. As this pilot unfolds and the state and municipalities learn and seek to evolve their policies, the pilot aims to be a role model for change across the nation to transform our current social service sector system to one that honors family choice and control, recognizes the strength of their communities, and invests directly in their solutions.  

“Under this administration, the Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance has shepherded sev-eral changes to our economic assistance programs to sup-port people receiving benefits as they move to employment,” said Department of Transitional Assistance Commissioner Jeff McCue. “The Department has been engaged in an agency culture shift from providing bene-fits to encouraging economic mobility, and this pilot is exactly the kind of innovative project that helps us learn and drive informed changes.”

The partnership was officially announced May 20 at the Museum of Science with representatives from FII, DTA, the City of Boston and Google.org out-lining how the “Trust and Invest Collaborative” will work to benefit area families living with low incomes. Also included in the launch day events was a demonstra-tion of FII’s technology platform, UpTogether, which will be used to strengthen existing and create new social networks, access financial capital and incentives, set goals and monitor progress and allow families to support one another in achieving mobility. FII has consistently shown that the combination of peer networks, progress tracking, and capital investment results in the increased social and economic mobility of families living with low incomes.

“The City of Boston is proud to partner with the Family Independence Initiative and the Department of Transitional Assistance on this opportunity to take the lead in building a system that provides solid pathways to economic security and mobility to Boston residents,” said John F. Barros, chief of economic development, City of Boston. “The Walsh administration is committed to test-ing out new ideas to better serve City of Boston resi-dents, and we look forward to working with and learning from this people-centered pilot.”

Google.org, Boston Children’s Hospital, Cambridge Community Foundation, the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation and the Wagner Foundation are funding partners for the project.

“Google believes in the power of technology to strengthen communities and create more opportunity for everyone,” said Google.org Senior Manager Samantha Hennessey. “We are proud to support the Family Inde-pendence Initiative’s data-driven and family-led model and this exciting collaboration in Boston and Cambridge with both our Google.org funding and the technical expertise of our Google.org Fellows.”

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