Expecting Milwaukee Mothers can Receive Unrestricted Monthly Cash Stipends through The Bridge Project at the Zilber Family Foundation

No Strings Attached

Sometimes a little cash can go a long way, especially when you can choose how you want to spend it. To help end child poverty and slow the rate of maternal death, the Zilber Family Foundation will give single mothers in Milwaukee monthly cash stipends to use for the betterment of themselves and their children.

There will be no restrictions on how the funds have to be used because each mother’s situation is different. Thanks to an almost $1.6 million donation from the Zilber Family Foundation, The Bridge Project will help 100 eligible low-income, pregnant individuals with unrestricted cash to be spent on whatever is needed to keep mom and baby healthy and stable for the first two years of the child’s life. The funding will secure two years of cash transfers for Milwaukee mothers; The Bridge Program’s cohorts usually run for three years.

Zilber Family Foundation Executive Director Gina Stilp said the foundation trusts the mothers to do what’s best, which goes beyond just food and shelter. She added that moms shouldn’t feel shame for using the stipends to buy non-essential items.

“Yes, it’s for basic needs…but it’s also to take care of yourself or so your kid can have an Easter basket,” said Stilp.

The Bridge

Project Program Director Jessica Cuttone said some mothers have used the funds to finish nursing school while others were able to leave domestic violence situations.

“We love the variety of stories,” said Cuttone.

Requirements and Where to Apply

Program participants will receive a one-time prenatal stipend of $1,125, followed by monthly payments of $750 for the first 15 months and $375 for the remaining nine months. Eligible program participants will be selected by lottery. The application process will remain open until all program slots are filled.

Eligibility criteria: 

  • 18 years or older
  • 23 weeks pregnant or less
  • Live in Milwaukee zip codes 53204, 53205, 53206, or 53215, with priority in Zilber Neighborhood Initiative (ZNI) neighborhoods of Lindsay Heights, Clarke Square, and Layton Boulevard West
  • Have an annual household income of less than $39,000

To apply for The Bridge Project in Milwaukee, click here.

The Bridge Project Started in New York

The Bridge Project was started in New York in 2021 by The Monarch Foundation. According to the site, The Bridge Project invests directly and flexibly in early childhood to break the cycle of stress and poverty passed down generationally and to enhance the socio-economic mobility of families. Over 1,200 mothers have been serviced through the program. The very first cohort of mothers will soon be completing their three years.

The program has proven the importance of cash as a resource in addition to social services.

“We made a commitment to go national,” said Cuttone. “We’re an ambitious organization.” She added that they are happy to help anyone looking to bring The Bridge Project to a city that could benefit from it.

Milwaukee is the first city outside of New York to implement The Bridge Project and this is Milwaukee’s first unconditional cash program.

“By providing direct, unrestricted financial support, The Bridge Project is attempting to give power back to residents, so they can make their own choices and address essential needs as they see fit,” said Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson in a press release.

Expanding the Milwaukee Initiative Beyond Two Years

As a privately owned charitable organization, Stilp said the Zilber Family Foundation was willing to take on what some consider risks. She wants others to realize that poverty isn’t a choice but a systemic issue that can be fought against with cash stipends and programs like The Bridge Project.

“If we took care of people…we would really interrupt generational poverty.”

– Gina Stilp

Stilp hopes to continue The Bridge Project in Milwaukee and would like to partner with local organizations to provide wrap-around services for moms and babies.

“We want [The Bridge Project] to be Milwaukee’s initiative,” said Stilp.

Nyesha Stone founded Carvd N Stone in 2017 to cover positive news while attending the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Stone has a B.A. in Journalism. She has raised over $30,000 to award grants and scholarships. She has also been featured in ESSENCE and worked with the American Black Film Festival.

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