Eligibility & FAQs

This page covers eligibility criteria for the Madison Forward Fund, and provides answers to frequently asked questions.

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Eligibility

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Am I eligible?

  • Do you live in the City of Madison?
  • Are you 18 years or older?
  • Do you have at least one child (age 17 or under) that lives with you?
  • Is your household income less than 200% of the Federal Poverty Line (see the table below)?

If you answered yes to all four questions, you are eligible to apply for the Madison Forward Fund!

Is my household income less than 200% of the Federal Poverty Line?

Residents of the City of Madison with at least one child (age 0-17) living in the household and with household income levels less than 200% of the Federal Poverty Line are eligible.

Number of people in your household Annual Income 200% of the Federal Poverty Line
2 $36,620
3 $46,060
4 $55,500
5 $64,940
6 $74,380
7 $83,820
8 $93,260

Source: HHS Poverty Guidelines. 2022. U.S. Federal Poverty Guidelines Used to Determine Financial Eligibility for Certain Programs. A chart showing the percentages (e.g., 200 percent) of the guidelines.

Other Frequently Asked Questions

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What is Guaranteed Income?

A guaranteed income is a monthly cash payment given directly to families. It is unconditional, with no strings attached and no work requirements. A guaranteed income is meant to supplement, rather than replace, the existing social safety net and be a tool for racial and gender equity.

How will households be selected to participate?

155 families will be randomly selected to receive the guaranteed income. Another 200 families will be randomly selected to participate in the control group. Every family that applies and is eligible has an equal chance of being selected.

If selected, what are the payment amounts?

Participants will receive unrestricted payments of $500 a month for 1 year.

Does the money have to be used in a certain way?

No. The $500 monthly payments have no strings attached. Participants can use the money however they need.

What happens if I am selected?

Families that are selected to receive the monthly payment will be contacted via email or phone approximately 3 weeks after the application period ends. A representative from the program will be available to answer any questions, and you will have the option to meet with a benefits counselor before deciding whether to enroll in the program or not. You can opt out at any time.

What happens if I am not selected to participate?

We will be updating this website once all notifications are complete. If you check the website and it says we have finished notifications to participants, but you have not been contacted, then you have not been selected to participate. The information you share through the application can only be used for research purposes, so Madison Forward Fund is not allowed to have access to the data for non-selected individuals. This means we can’t contact you to tell you if you haven’t been chosen to participate. Check this website to stay up to date on the notification process.

What does it mean to participate in the Madison Forward Fund?

Fully participating in MFF entails receiving the cash payments and filling out research surveys. There are no rules around how to spend your cash payment, and the confidential research surveys can be done in the privacy of your home. While both the cash payments and your participation in the survey research are optional, they are very important in helping us understand the effectiveness of guaranteed income programs in Madison and beyond.

What documentation will I be asked to provide?

You will not need to provide any documentation as part of the application process. You will be asked to self-report on your city of residence, household income, and the number of children in your home.

What is a Randomized Controlled Trial, and why is Madison Forward Fund designed as one?

A randomized controlled trial is a type of study that compares information between two groups, in this case the families that receive a monthly cash payment and those who do not. Both groups will be asked to fill out surveys and will be compensated for their time. Data from the Madison Forward Fund will be used to help understand the effectiveness of guaranteed income programs in Madison and beyond.

What is my role in the research?

Surveys are conducted every 6 months from the start of the pilot program. You will be asked to complete the surveys online on your own. Surveys will take about 30 minutes to complete, and they can be done on a computer or cell phone. Your answers are completely confidential, and you will be compensated for your time with $30 per completed survey. In the future we may connect state and local administrative records about you and your children. Again, this information will be kept confidential and will never be released in a way that could identify you.

Can I opt out of the research?

Yes, you can opt out of the research at any point during the study. Families who are selected to participate will receive information about how to opt out after they are selected.

How will information that I provide be used?

Your survey responses and any administrative data will be aggregated with other peoples’ responses and information, and the data will be analyzed by researchers at the Center for Guaranteed Income Research at the University of Pennsylvania and the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Data from the program will be used to inform the national debate around if and how guaranteed income programs improve the well-being of families.

Why should I apply to participate in the Madison Forward Fund?

The families that are chosen to participate will receive $500 dollars a month for 12 months to use however you see fit.

You should apply if:

  • You live in the City of Madison
  • You are 18 years or older
  • You have at least one child (ages 0-17) living at home
  • You make less than 200% of the federal poverty line (see below)
  • You could use $500 a month
  • You want to help us learn about the impact of monthly cash payments
  • You like the idea of a guaranteed income and want to support it

We need hundreds of families to apply! While only 155 families will receive a monthly cash gift, another 200 families will have the opportunity to participate in surveys and be compensated for their time.

Will this affect my public benefits?

Some public benefits programs, like Social Security benefits, housing assistance, Wisconsin Works (W-2), and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, have income requirements that count cash gifts as “countable income.” This means that MFF’s guaranteed income might affect your benefit levels or your eligibility for those programs. If you apply and are selected to participate, you will be connected with a benefits counselor who will help you understand how MFF’s monthly cash gift will affect your eligibility and benefit levels for those programs.

Fortunately, other programs—like the City of Madison’s child care subsidies, BadgerCare plus, and Wisconsin Shares—do NOT count cash gifts as “countable income.” The table below explains which public benefits should not be affected by MFF cash income and why:

Program Non-countable income determination
BadgerCare Plus Option 41 Section 16.2 of the BadgerCare Employee Handbook specifies that gifts are NOT included in the financial eligibility test.
CHIP This program uses Modified Adjusted Gross Income, which does not count gifts towards income. See https://www.healthcare.gov/income-and-household-information/income/#magi
City of Madison Subsidized Child Care Section 3.12(10)(g)1 in the City of Madison Code of Ordinances specifies that applicants must meet the income criteria established by the Common Council, unless the applicant is actively participating in, and receiving payments from, the Madison Forward Fund.
EITC This program uses tax forms to determine eligibility—and MFF benefits are considered non-taxable income by the IRS definition of countable income.
HeadStart This program uses tax forms to determine eligibility—and MFF benefits are considered non-taxable income by the IRS definition of countable income
Medicaid (Granted someone is not blind, elderly or disabled) Medicaid determination for non-elderly and non-disabled persons uses Modified Adjusted Gross Income, which does not count gifts as income. See https://www.healthcare.gov/income-and-household-information/income/#magi
Wi Home and Energy Assistance Program (WHEAP) While this is considered countable income by their set definitions, MFF benefits will be exempted through an internal exemption process at the Department of Administration.
WiShares Section 1.4.3 of the WI Shares handbook specifies that gifts are not included in the financial eligibility test.

Will my taxes be affected by the MFF cash gift? Will I need to report this on my tax return?

No and No. The Madison Forward Fund is considered a cash gift according to the current definition set by the IRS. Cash and asset gifts (with asset gifts referring to stocks, land, a new car, etc.) only need to be reported to the IRS if you receive $15,000 or more in one year. Because the Madison Forward Fund benefits will amount to $6,000 per year, you will only need to fill out an IRS Form 709 if you receive additional cash/asset gifts totalling $9,000 or more in one year.

Who is administering the Madison Forward Fund?

Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway and staff at the City of Madison are partnering with Mayors for a Guaranteed Income, TASC, the Institute for Research on Poverty at UW–Madison, and the Center for Guaranteed Income Research at the University of Pennsylvania to implement the Madison Forward Fund. This program is advised by a Task Force of community leaders from across Madison. The Task Force includes non-profit leaders, established human service providers, elected city leaders, UW–Madison scholars, and long-time Madison residents.

How is this program funded?

In June 2020, Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway became one of the first 15 mayors to join Mayors for a Guaranteed Income (MGI), a coalition of cities across the United States focused on ending poverty by advocating for guaranteed income policies. In December 2020, MGI announced that Madison will receive up to $600,000 to design a pilot program, thanks to the generosity of Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey.

The Madison Forward Fund is providing $930,000 dollars in direct cash assistance to Madison families. This initiative is funded entirely by non-taxpayer dollars, provided by generous private donors including Mayors for a Guaranteed Income, Roots & Wings Foundation, UW Health, CUNA Mutual Foundation, Madison Gas & Electric Foundation, the TASC Family Foundation, American Family Insurance Dreams Foundation, Alliant Energy Foundation, PRL Keystone Foundation, and Wisconsin Department of Health Services. No City tax dollars are being used to support the Madison Forward Fund.

Who can I contact with additional questions?

You can contact the MFF Program Manager, Blake Roberts Crall, at broberts23@wisc.edu or (608) 515-8047.

For more information contact:

Blake Roberts Crall, MFF Program Manager
broberts23@wisc.edu or 608-515-8047

The Madison Forward Fund is no longer accepting applications. Please check this website to stay up to date on program news and announcements.