It’s Time to Put Money in People’s Pockets
Giving people money so that they can meet their basic needs—food, shelter, clothing—is an old idea that is gaining new momentum. Cities should implement guaranteed income programs.
Local officials have the power to help millions of people in the United States who can’t afford basic necessities or a $400 financial emergency:
- Cities can start small. Pilot programs that give unrestricted direct-cash payments to vulnerable people have already been rolled out in at least 25 cities. In Jackson, Mississippi, for example, the Magnolia Mother’s Trust is giving $1000 a month for one year to 110 Black mothers living in public housing. In California, the Compton Pledge is sending $300 to $600 a month to a pool of low-income residents, and the Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration is providing $500 a month to 125 randomly selected households living in areas with a median income below $46,033.
- Cities can look to public-private partnerships to create and sustain guaranteed-income pilot programs. The Fund for Guaranteed Income and the Jain Family Institute, the Stanford Basic Income Lab, and the Economic Security Project are supporting programs in California, Mississippi, Illinois, and New Jersey.
- Cities should push state lawmakers to support these programs by encouraging governors and legislators to develop statewide guaranteed income programs, especially in resource-rich states with Democratic leaders at the helm.
Guaranteed income programs are a better way to address economic hardship:
- Guaranteed income programs recognize that people deserve to be able to meet their basic needs, regardless of whether they have interacted with the criminal legal system or lack employment. There are no conditions to the cash and the money helps everyone who needs it.
- Guaranteed income programs encourage financial independence. Instead of the government controlling spending through specialized benefits, like food stamps or housing assistance, guaranteed income programs provide cash, free of restrictions, so individuals and families can decide for themselves how to spend or save their money.
- As Chris Hughes, director of the Economic Security Project, explained in the New York Times, “The United States needs a new economic framework designed for resiliency in the face of disruption and change.” A consistent and reliable monthly income can help people build that kind of stability.
- A guaranteed income could be a significant step toward closing the racial wealth gap. Dr. Bernice King and former Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs spoke with Time magazine about how such programs can “build prosperity and build wealth and create opportunity” for communities of color.
- Compton Joins the Growing Number of U.S. Cities to Launch a Guaranteed Income Program. The California city began distributing out up to $600 monthly to low-income residents.
- The Mississippi Program That’s Showing How Effective Direct Cash Payments Can Be. Researchers say that programs like the Magnolia Mother’s Trust, which gives Black women $1,000 a month, could be crucial in reducing the racial wealth gap.
- Governors Who Are Banding Together on Pandemic Response Should Adopt Universal Basic Income. The federal government is not going to lead the way on addressing the economic pain caused by the shutdowns. But states have the power to do something about it now.
- Voters Support Local Pilot Programs To Give People Direct Cash Payments. A national poll by Data for Progress and The Lab, a policy vertical of The Appeal, reveals broad support from voters for local guaranteed income programs for those who cannot afford basic needs.