A Washington DC mother has told how she squandered most of a taxpayer-funded $10,000 lump sum intended for impoverished mothers on a luxury vacation to Miami.
Canethia Miller, 27, was accepted into a D.C. government pilot program last year as she and her three children struggled to make ends meet. The Strong Futures program is one of many in the United States, but the only one that offers the cash in a lump sum of $10,800 or in monthly installments of $900.
Miller opted for the former – and confessed to Washington Post who splashed out more than $6,000 on a five-night trip to Miami for herself and her three children.
‘I wanted to ruin it. “I wanted to have fun,” she said. The overspending included 15 new outfits for her children, one for each child for each day of the vacation, and a $180 haircut so she wouldn’t “look like a stressed, working mom.”
Accompanied by the father of their children, they enjoyed luxurious amenities that included steak dinners, new gadgets and toys for their children, new suits, and a boat tour of Miami’s most expensive mansions.
Canethia Miller, 27, blew more than $10,000 in taxpayer benefits meant for impoverished mothers in a matter of months, most of it on a five-day luxury trip to Miami.
The stay-at-home mom said that despite struggling to make ends meet, she wanted to spend more than $6,000 on a week’s vacation that her family “would never have been able to do if I didn’t have that money.”
Miller’s vacation to Miami included steak dinners, new gadgets and toys for his children, new suits, and a boat tour of Florida’s most expensive mansions.
While others who shared their stories about the program were more pragmatic, Miller said she spent the $10,800 in a matter of months and struggled to keep $50 in her savings account.
The young mother shared her story as part of a profile of DC’s ‘Strong Families, Strong Futures’ pilot program, which shows how no-strings-attached money helped several low-income mothers.
It was introduced by the city’s Democratic mayor, Muriel Bowser, and is one of several programs established across the United States where those living at or below the poverty line receive cash to try to help them get on a financial footing. solid.
Nearly $1.5 million of taxpayer money was distributed in the program, and 132 mothers were selected to receive monthly payments of $900 or a lump sum of $10,800.
Miller opted for the lump sum and said getting accepted into the program was a stroke of luck, since she missed the application deadline but submitted her paperwork anyway.
The stay-at-home mom said her financial difficulties worsened when she welcomed her third child in the summer of 2022, but she received a variety of help, including a subsidized two-bedroom apartment in Anacostia.
Funds through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program also helped cover her $120 monthly rent, while food stamps barely helped her make ends meet.
“The purchases last us the first three weeks of the month, then we try to calculate the last week of my benefits,” he said. “Tough, but short.”
After taking a break from her social work studies to focus on her growing family, Miller was accepted into the program, an added benefit that got her thinking straight about planning a vacation.
He said he set aside some funds to cover essential bills, but put most of the windfall toward giving his family a vacation they “would never have been able to enjoy if I didn’t have that money.”
Although other mothers in the program gushed about how the program allowed them to pay off their debts, Miller decided to spend more than $6,000 on a five-day trip to Florida.
“All the outfits they were wearing were new,” he added.
While others only took home monthly payments of $900, Miller decided to take $10,800 in a lump sum, investing more than half of it in a vacation to Miami.
Miller said sky-high inflation left her struggling and she was already receiving a variety of food stamps and benefits before receiving the $10,800 windfall.
She is seen playing Uno with another young mother who participated in the pilot program ‘Strong Families, Strong Futures’.
Miller also spent $180 on new hair and nails, a transformation she was still loving in her follow-up interview with the Washington Post.
‘Do you know how good I look in this photo? She didn’t have to look like a stressed, working mother,’ she recalled.
While some might have thought the funds could be better spent, she maintained that the vacation could help motivate her children for success, as she encouraged them that good grades could one day translate into their own mansions in Miami.
He added that he had never been taught financial literature or important lessons on how to save cash for a rainy day, something he was offered for the first time on the program.
This led her to open a savings account, which she said she intends to keep at least $50 in, and although she spent the remaining $4,000 in a matter of months, she insisted that the funds helped her learn how to save money for the future.
‘Many communities in my area do not know the financial benefit of credit and saving for children; “That’s why we’re bankrupt, that’s why we have nothing to inherit and no house to give up,” Miller said.
‘I’m trying to get to the level where I’m conveying something that really matters, so that I and my kids can be prepared, and they don’t need to work as hard as I’m doing now.’
Now she’s ready for a new remote job that could pay up to $30 an hour, a new opportunity she attributes to the confidence she gained in the program.
In comparison, mother Erika James, 34, shared a completely different approach.
Erika James, 34, shared a completely different approach to saving money and said her only regret is not spending any windfalls on herself.
Saving most of the funds for his debts and his children, James’ only expense was on his son’s first birthday party (pictured).
Already with an 11-year-old daughter, De’Vire, she began to have financial difficulties after the birth of her son, Loyal, in January 2022.
Her high-risk pregnancy forced her to stop working, but as she struggled to make ends meet, a friend sent her a text urging her to apply for the program.
James was already putting almost his entire salary into De’Vire’s savings account and drawing on the funds as needed to pay bills and expenses.
“If it was on my account, it would just be swipe, swipe, swipe; it’s better to put it on your account,” James said. “I look at my bank statement and I see De’Vire and I want to touch him, but I know I can’t.”
While the tactic kept her disciplined in her spending, sky-high inflation meant she was still behind on several payments.
That is, James attributed her difficulties to her demanding work schedule and hoped that the payments would help her navigate caring for her children and be there to meet milestones.
“I was always at work. But as I got older, I learned that sometimes mail just has to stay there,” James said. “I don’t want to miss those moments with my son.”
Compared to Miller’s exorbitant splurge in Miami, James said she hardly regretted spending any of the money on herself, and that her only overspending was about $600 on Loyal’s first birthday party.
‘I think I should have taken at least $200 and spent it on myself. But every time I blink it’s a bill,” he said.
“You look back on things and say, ‘Well, I should have done this,’ and that’s how I feel.” Maybe I could have done something different. But the money helped me a lot.”