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DC pilot program gives low-income moms $10,800 to get by. One recipient splurged for the high life: 'I wanted to have fun'
Canethia Miller (left). Photo by Katherine Frey/The Washington Post via Getty Images

DC pilot program gives low-income moms $10,800 to get by. One recipient splurged for the high life: 'I wanted to have fun'

Washington, D.C., has been experimenting with a new way to be charitable with taxpayers' money. Strong Families, Strong Futures is a $1.5 million pilot program that forked over unconditional payments of $10,800 to 132 low-income women who recently had or were expecting children in Wards 5, 7, and 8.

Martha's Table, which facilitated the pilot in partnership with the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, indicated at the outset, "We believe that there is no single roadmap to success and that each one of our neighbors should have agency over their own financial decision-making as they know best what their family needs."

One beneficiary of the program may have put the organization's belief to the test.

Canethia Miller, a 27-year-old mother of three, revealed to the Washington Post she burned through most of the money in hopes of getting a brief taste of the high life.

Prior to the pilot program, Miller was living off welfare in a subsidized two-bedroom apartment in the historic Anacostia neighborhood with her newborn child and other two kids, ages 5 and 8.

Despite missing the application deadline for the pilot program, Miller still managed to get on the waiting list. Like the other mothers ultimately enrolled in the program, Miller was asked whether she wanted 12 monthly payments of $900 or a lump sum payment of nearly $11,000. Like 75% of the other recipients, Miller chose the latter.

Miller temporarily put some of the strings-free taxpayer money aside for essential expenses. The remainder, however, did not last long.

"I wanted to blow it," she told the Post. "I wanted to have fun."

Despite admittedly struggling to make her welfare stretch every month to cover groceries for her family, Miller spent $180 of the Strong Families, Strong Future lump sum on her nails and hair, then took her three kids and their father on a $6,000 trip to Miami.

According to the Post, during her luxury vacation, Miller treated her family to a boat tour of "million-dollar homes and luxury yachts" and as well as to a dinner out at a Japanese steak and sushi restaurant.

Following her own "roadmap to success," Miller also bought "new clothes, shoes, gadgets and toys." She boasted that every outfit her kids wore on the trip was new.

"[My kids] got to experience something I would never have been able to do if I didn't have that money," said Miller.

According to the Post, Miller later opened a savings account with the aim of keeping "at least $50 in it" and bought a used car.

"A lot of communities in my area don’t know the financial gain of credit, saving for your kids; that's why we're broke, that's why we don't have nothing to pass down or no house to give down," continued the mother of three. "I'm trying to get to the level where I'm passing something down that really matters, so I can be set and my kids can be set, and they don't need to push so hard like I'm doing now."

Another beneficiary of the taxpayer-funded lump sum indicated she splurged on herself.

Saleemia Quigley, 41, told the Post, "I ain't going to lie. I went shopping, clothes — stuff I didn't need. It was like, 'I paid my rent, so I can go ahead and do this.'"

Other mothers in the program apparently used the pilot money to pay down their debts and upgrade accommodations.

When Democratic Mayor Muriel Bowser announced the direct cash transfer program in January 2022, she emphasized the point of Strong Families, Strong Futures was child care — "whether that care involves more diapers, more visits to doctors, more food on the table, shoes, games, books, adventures, all of those things."

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