Dist. 2 Atlanta City Councilman Amir Farokhi has announced the establishment of the Georgia Resilience and Opportunity (GRO) Fund, which will help Black women living near or below the federal poverty line.

The nonprofit, led by Hope Wollensack as executive director, is set to launch in early 2022 and will be one of the largest Guaranteed Income (GI) programs in the United States.

The program, called In Her Hands, will provide unconditional cash transfers averaging $850 per month for two years, totaling $13 million, to 650 Black women near or below the federal poverty line in urban, suburban, and rural Georgia – areas with some of the largest racial wealth gaps in the country.

Wollensack feels that the focus on Black women is particularly important.

“In Georgia, Black women are paid 63 cents on the dollar compared to white men and are twice as likely to be living in poverty as white women,” she said. “This was the demographic hardest hit in the recession and is experiencing the slowest recovery. Providing this opportunity to Black women, particularly at this moment, can make a serious impact in Georgia and set an example for programs like these across the country.”

In Her Hands will be co-administered by the GRO Fund and GiveDirectly, a global leader in cash transfers. The GRO Fund emerged from the work of the Old Fourth Ward Economic Security Task Force, a coalition of 28 community members, elected officials, nonprofits, religious leaders, and state and national policy advocates convened by Farokhi and supported by the Economic Security Project.

The task force focused on the root causes of disparities in the Old Fourth Ward neighborhood, the birthplace of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., an early advocate of guaranteed income, and the persistent economic instability many face across Georgia.

“Georgia has some of the starkest economic insecurity and instability in the country, especially for Black and Brown women. We’re setting out to test big ideas to tackle this challenge,” Farokhi said. “But the work is grounded in people first, not theory. From our values to program design, this work is first and foremost about people’s expertise in their own lives and their agency, dignity, stability, and potential.”

Research shows that GI programs, which are grounded in the premise of unconditional cash support, lead to the best outcomes. Wollensack feels that this core tenet is key to the success of In Her Hands.

“Our community members are incredibly resilient and resourceful, but many are grappling with deep and long-standing inequities that make covering basic needs difficult,” she said. “This isn’t the result of poor choices, it’s the result of pervasive economic insecurity that has the sharpest impacts on women and communities of color and the people who live at the intersection of the two. Through unconditional support we can break that cycle of financial insecurity.”

For general information or questions about ways to get involved either as a supporter or participant, go to TheGroFund.org.

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.