During his State of the City address this week, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced the launch of the largest guaranteed basic income pilot of any city in America.
During the pandemic, Garcetti joined the Mayors for a Guaranteed Income (MGI) coalition, which today includes 43 mayors. The coalition was founded by the former mayor of Stockton, Michael Tubbs, who launched it in June 2020. A guaranteed income is a monthly, cash payment given directly to individuals, typically meant to supplement, rather than replace, the existing social safety net. In its statement of principles, MGI says that “the U.S. is one of the wealthiest countries in the world but prosperity and well-being are not broadly shared. Nearly 40% of Americans cannot afford a single $400 emergency.”
Twitter Co-Founder and CEO, Jack Dorsey, donated $3 million to help launch MGI in July 2020 and donated an additional $15 million in December. Let’s take a look at some of their proposed plans.
Garcetti said in his state of the city address earlier this week that the city has budgeted $24 million to provide $1,000 a month to 2,000 households for an entire year, “no questions asked, wherever poverty lives in our city.”
The mayor added that thanks to the leadership of Councilmember Curren Price, Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson, and other councilmembers, these funds will grow to more than $30 million in direct help to begin to “tear away at poverty in our city and show this nation a way to fulfill Dr. King’s call for a basic income once and for all.”
“We’re betting that one small but steady investment for Angeleno households will pay large dividends for health and stability across our city and light a fire across our nation. Strengthening our youth, our families, and our communities is not an additional option or some sort of elective class … It’s central to the creation of a just and resilient city of the future,” Garcetti said.
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Stockton was the first city to implement the program, launched in February 2019 by former Mayor Michael D. Tubbs.
The Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration (SEED) gave 125 randomly selected residents $500/month for 24 months. The cash was completely unconditional, with no strings attached and no work requirements, according to the SEED’s website.
“Aiming to test a simple yet innovative solution to poverty and inequality, SEED’s preliminary findings show how just $500 a month can provide the dignity and agency that everyone deserves.”
St. Paul, Minn.
The City of Saint Paul and its mayor, Melvin Carter, launched the People’s Prosperity Guaranteed Income Pilot in November 2020, which provides up to 150 Saint Paul families with $500 per month in guaranteed income for a period of up to 18 months.
The People’s Prosperity Pilot is being offered to families participating in CollegeBound Saint Paul, the City’s college savings initiative which is providing every child born to a Saint Paul resident on or after January 1, 2020 with a college savings account and a $50 seed deposit. In addition to the $500 families will receive each month through the Pilot, their child will receive a $10 bonus deposit in their CollegeBound Saint Paul account, according to the program’s website.
“The goal of our guaranteed income pilot is simple: get cash to families in our community with no strings attached so they can buy the things they need like food, housing, and other essentials. For far too long, too many programs that provide support have focused on telling families on how much, where and what to spend resources on. Because families know best what they need, our program gives them the flexibility to determine how to spend these resources.”
The city started giving $200 to $400 a month in November 2020, to approximately 2,000 low-income families, in funds that can be used for anything from food to paying bills, according to the Boston Globe. The trial, with $3 million in seed money and set to run for four months at first, the Globe says.
“It really is intended for food and necessities, but it is a basic income program. The card can be used anywhere that Visa is accepted in the entire world. There are no restrictions on the use of the money,” City Manager Thomas Ambrosino said, according to CBN News. “We strongly believe that just because someone is poor does not mean they’re irresponsible, and the data bears that out,” Ambrosino said, adding “99 plus percent of the expenditures on these cards are for food and necessities. There’s very little frivolous spending.”
Compton Mayor Aja Brown launched the Compton Pledge in December 2020, the city’s guaranteed income pilot program.
Last week, Brown announced the successful enrollment of 800 families in the pilot program, making it the largest city-based guaranteed income initiative in United States history, according to a statement. The Compton Pledge has already disbursed $1 million to support more than 1770 recipients, including dependents. A total of $9.1 million will be distributed in recurring payments over the next two years. The community-led pilot uses a custom, web-based payments platform to enhance the economic security and self-determination of historically marginalized groups, including undocumented and formerly incarcerated residents. The program is the first to offer a tailored set of payment options and allow participants to switch between them. To date, 50% chose Direct Deposit, 9% chose Venmo, 8% chose PayPal and 33% chose prepaid card.
“There can be no peace without understanding identity, operating in purpose, and the inalienable right of human dignity. I want residents to be empowered by the greatness from where they came,” Brown said in the statement last week.
In February, in a unanimous decision, the Gainesville City Commission voted in support of a resolution to establish a guaranteed income program. This resolution shows support for people with a criminal record to receive a recurring monthly income for up to two years to help them get back on their feet and solidifies Gainesville’s commitment to creating an income floor under the leadership of Mayor Lauren Poe, a member of (MGI), according to a statement.
“In the wake of the pandemic and its massive economic toll, guaranteed income stands out as a necessary tool to address the inequality pervading our communities” Mayor Poe said in the statement. . “This first of its kind program provides a cushion to those who can least afford to bear the burden of income instability.”
A pilot in Gainesville is planned to launch in 2021, with details currently being finalized.
In October 2020, Richmond’s Mayor Levar Stoney announced that the city, in partnership with Robins Foundation, launched the Richmond Resilience Initiative, a guaranteed income pilot program. Under the program, working families who no longer qualify for benefits assistance but still do not make a living wage will receive $500 a month for 24 months, according to a statement.
“The Richmond Resilience Initiative pilot will go far in both supporting hardworking families and providing the necessary data points to design policies that promote sustainable economic security and mobility,” Stoney said in the statement. “The pandemic has proven that for many families, $500 can be the difference between staying sheltered or losing your home, buying groceries or going hungry, and that degree of vulnerability is unacceptable.”
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