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Philadelphia officials announced a new trial program to pay pregnant women $1,000 per month in an attempt to combat racial disparities in infant mortality.
The Philadelphia Department of Health has created the Philly Joy Bank, a pilot program aimed at reducing racial disparities in infant mortality within the city. The $1,000 monthly payments “will help provide a monthly guaranteed income for approximately 250 pregnant Philadelphians with the aim of reducing racial disparities in birth outcomes,” according to a city press release.
Of the top 10 most populated cities across the country, Philadelphia has the highest rate of infant mortality, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health says, and Black infants in the city are more than four times more likely to die before their first birthday than White infants.
“Research has shown that supporting pregnant people with cash payments can improve birth outcomes that are associated with infant mortality,” Health Commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole said, “including low birth weight and prematurity.”
“Infant mortality in Philadelphia is a solvable crisis,” she said. “We know that being able to better support pregnant people and new parents helps keep babies alive. As the poorest big city in the country, this is not always easy, especially in areas of the city that are being crushed by generational poverty and systemic racism. The Philly Joy Bank draws on the successes of other no-strings-attached guaranteed income projects to help break those cycles.”
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney shared his excitement as one of the first cities in the country trying to attack infant mortality in this way.
To be eligible for the program, the health department says Philadelphia residents must be pregnant, have a household income of less than $100,000 per year and live in one of the neighborhoods with the highest rates of low birth weight: Cobbs Creek, Strawberry Mansion and Nicetown-Tioga.
Maternal Mortality On The Rise In U.S. As Well
According to the Centers for Disease Control, maternal death rates rose by 40%, with the increase more than twice as high for Black women, from 2020 to 2021. Compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic, 1,205 women died of maternal causes in the U.S. in 2021, compared to 861 deaths in 2020 the CDC reported.
In 2021, the maternal mortality rate for Black women was 69.9 per 100,000 live births, compared to 26.6 per 100,000 for White women.
The Black Maternal “Momnibus” Act of 2021 has been introduced in Congress to provide pre- and post-natal support for Black mothers, including extending eligibility for certain benefits postpartum. Yet it hasn’t been passed.