Phoenix City Council approved a pilot program last week that will pay $12 million in ARPA funds to 1,000 Phoenix families in need — $12,000 to each family over the course of a year.
To be eligible, families at or below 80% of the Area Median Income, which is $63,200 a year for a family of four. The money will be distributed via debit cards to which the city will add monthly payments. There are a few spending limitations, such as no alcohol, tobacco or lottery tickets.
Vice Mayor Carlos Garcia was happy to see the funds paid in debit cards and not grocery gift cards.
“I think people know best what their needs are,” Garcia said, mentioning child care and medicine as possible spending needs for families.
Selected families also must agree to general purchasing information from the debit cards being shared with the city, as is encouraged by the U.S. Department of the Treasury.
City Council approved the pilot program 6-2 Tuesday, Sept. 14. along with approval of another pilot program to offer $100 vaccine incentive gift cards.
Councilmen Sal DiCiccio and Jim Waring were the no-votes. Councilwoman Ann O’Brien was absent.
One thousand households will be selected via a lottery system among the eligible families that apply.
Many of the eligible families are already in the city’s system. Households that have applied for coronavirus relief funds in the past, who live in public housing or have a Section 8 housing voucher will automatically be applied.
Phoenix staff noted Chicago and Los Angeles County have enacted similar family assistance programs. Councilwoman Betty Guardado encouraged staff to reach out to those who have already administered the program for advice.
“I know that this is a pilot and you’re trying to see if this works, but I would love for us to entertain a conversation at least with Chicago to see how is it that they’re doing and how is it that they’re able to give more (of) this type of assistance out to their constituents,” Guardado said.
An application portal for the family assistance has not yet been launched, but check phoenix.gov/humanservices or call the Human Services Department at 602-262-6666.
Click here to view a breakdown of Phoenix’s ARPA spending.