Mississippi's state healthcare system ranked dead last in America on a 2018 scorecard by The Commonwealth Fund. It has the 46th highest unemployment rate in the country (4.7 percent), according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' most recent data. Mississippi also came in last in a 2018 ranking of the level of education of the people living in each state by WalletHub.
The telling rankings make Mississippi a good place to test the efficacy of universal basic income, or free cash handouts, and that's what one group is doing with a pilot project for struggling black mothers. The Magnolia Mother's Trust is giving 20 black Mississippi moms who live below the federal poverty line $1,000 a month for one year to spend however they see fit.
One supporter of the program is Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, who is one of several donors to the Economic Security Project, an advocacy organization that gave $75,000 to get the program off the ground.
The first checks went out to 16 women in December, and thanks to a recent anonymous donor, 20 moms are in the pilot as of January.
"We have all seen the [rankings] ... and we are well aware of our history of slavery, segregation and inequity along racial lines," wrote Nyandoro in an op-ed for the Jackson-based Clarion Ledger. "But there is another story from Mississippi's history I do not think we tell often enough of low-income, black women who organized to create stronger communities and better outcomes for their people."