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Cambridge Announces Launch of Direct Payment Program for Eligible Low-Income Families

Cambridge City Hall is located in Central Square.
Cambridge City Hall is located in Central Square. By Julian J. Giordano
By Jina H. Choe, Crimson Staff Writer

The City of Cambridge announced the launch of “Rise Up Cambridge,” a direct cash program to combat family poverty and income inequality, at a news conference Tuesday.

Rise Up Cambridge is a $22 million assistance program that uses funds from the federal American Rescue Plan Act to provide direct cash assistance to eligible families that apply. Under the program, households earning at or below 250 percent of the federal poverty level and with children who are aged 21 or under receive $500 per month for 18 months.

“Families living in poverty simply do not have enough money to achieve stability because the economic growth that we’ve seen in Cambridge has not benefited everyone,” Cambridge Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui said during the conference.

In 2021, the city launched Cambridge Recurring Income for Success and Empowerment — often referred to as RISE — to assist low-income, single-caretaker families severely impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. RISE, which acted as a pilot for Rise Up Cambridge, was a guaranteed-income initiative that offered $500 payments for 18 months to more than 100 eligible households chosen by lottery.

Rise Up Cambridge will begin accepting applications on June 1, and initial payments will roll out beginning June 30.

“This is what government should be doing,” Siddiqui said.

Rise Up Cambridge is jointly run by the Office of the Mayor, the Cambridge Economic Opportunity Committee, and the Cambridge Community Foundation.

“It’s saying to our Cambridge residents that we see you, we trust you to use this money how you want to use this money to help your family,” Siddiqui said in an interview following the conference.

The goal of the program is to provide families with children with direct cash assistance, empowering residents to determine how to best meet their financial needs and addressing economic disparities and racial inequities in Cambridge.

“There is a deep dignity in giving people the choice and power to decide what they need,” City Manager Yi-An Huang ’05 said during the conference.

In an interview following the conference, Huang said Rise Up Cambridge is a step towards “recognizing that individuals, but especially families, really need the resources in this day to have opportunity for them to thrive.”

“So much of the services that we build in our city are making such a difference in people’s lives, but at the root of it is income,” he said. “I think cash assistance really recognizes that.”

U.S. Rep. Ayanna S. Pressley (D-Mass.), who also attended and spoke at the conference, described the launch of Rise Up Cambridge as “an extraordinary moment.”

Tina M. Alu, the executive director of the Cambridge Economic Opportunity Committee, said during the conference that the CEOC — along with the Mayor’s Office and other nonprofit partners — will be conducting outreach for the program in seven different languages throughout the city.

“I’m always happy to live and work in Cambridge, but on days like this, I’m especially proud,” she said.

Corrections: May 3, 2023

A previous version of this article incorrectly referred to Ayanna S. Pressley as a Massachusetts State Representative. In fact, Pressley is a U.S. Representative.

A previous version of this article incorrectly referred to Tina M. Alu as a member of the Cambridge Economic Opportunity Committee. In fact, Alu is the CEOC’s executive director.

—Staff writer Jina H. Choe can be reached at jina.choe@thecrimson.com.

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