Fri. May 24th, 2024

Guaranteed income programs spread as more cities expand the anti-poverty safety net

By 37ci3 Apr13,2024

A few weeks after Kiki Ramos received her first $500 monthly payment from the Richmond Resilience Initiative, her car was stolen.

“If I didn’t have that extra money, it would have been a huge domino effect,” he said.

His damaged car was soon recovered, but without the extra cash, the 33-year-old pharmacy technician couldn’t afford to repair it or rent it, given the $1,000 insurance premium. That would mean less ability to find carpools or public transportation to and from work and drive her 12- and 3-year-old boys to doctor’s appointments and recreational activities.

Kiki Ramos.
Kiki Ramos.Courtesy of Kiki Ramos

Ramos is one of 46 participants in the guaranteed income program, now in its third iteration, in Virginia’s capital city of about 230,000. 1 in 5 people live in poverty. The initiative is one of 35 such programs in the United States simultaneously, according to Mayors for Guaranteed Income (MGI), a group of municipal leaders working to expand them.

The programs are gaining steam in a post-pandemic economy whose sustainability defies expectations, even as high living costs strain working families. Proponents say unconditional payments help plug gaps in the social safety net that leave millions of households behind financially. However, critics are renewing the long-standing argument that handouts are a deterrent. still a humming job market.

If I didn’t have that extra money, it would have been a huge domino effect.

Kiki Ramos, 33, Richmond, Va.

Richmond’s initiative targets residents who are working but still struggling to make ends meet. Ramos earns at least $42,000 a year. about $5,000 above the federal poverty line its size for a house. While her income disqualifies her for most state and federal benefits, it rarely covers her $1,200 monthly rent, $150 weekly grocery bill and car insurance payments, which now total $680 each month.

“At certain points in my life, I was only around $10 or $50,” which was more than the cutoff for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Ramos said, also supporting his mother and sister, both of whom struggle with mental disabilities that prevent them from working. While receiving Medicaid, Ramos said her family was denied SNAP and Section 8 housing benefits because of her wages.

“It’s very disappointing to know that I will never qualify for any assistance,” she said.

Richmond’s economy recovered from the pandemic faster than the country’s real gross domestic product 2.6% growth from 2020 to 2022, the most recent data available, compared to 1.9% nationally. Still, United Way counts more than a third From Richmond area families “ALICE” households — asset limited, income limited, employed — despite living above the poverty line, their income does not consistently cover basic needs.

As in other cities, Richmond’s ALICE households swelled up during a pandemic, an additional 21,000 from 2020 to 2021 alone. The health care crisis has been a turning point for the guaranteed income, or GI, programs because federal stimulus payments “make it pretty easy for the government to provide cash to the vast majority of people,” said Aditi Shrivastava, deputy director of income security at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a left-leaning think tank.

Richmond recipients like Ramos “were basically on the financial brink every month,” said Mayor Levar Stoney, a Democrat who now wants to expand the program with $500,000 in his 2025 budget proposal “allowing us to reach more families.”

Levar Stone speaks at a press conference
Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney is seeking $500,000 in state funding to extend the city’s guaranteed income program.Caroline Brehman / AP file

Stoney was elected in 2016 and joined MGI’s board in 2020. The consortium of mostly Democratic leaders is using federal dollars funded by the 2021 American Rescue Plan, as well as private contributions from donors. Like Twitter co-founder Jack DorseyNow head of financial services firm Block, to support nationwide GI projects.

The group said it has overseen the launch of 66 such pilots in the past four years, including in red states like Kentucky and Florida. Unlike “universal basic income” proposals like a Endorsed by 2020 presidential candidate Andrew YoungGuaranteed income programs, which aim to cover the entire population regardless of earnings, are usually limited to those below certain income levels or those without access to other benefits.

The concept has been around since at least the 1960s, when proponents used the gamut. Black Panther Party for Richard Nixon, although it rejected the GI label. According to Paul Shafer, associate professor of health law and policy at Boston University, it has gained renewed attention in recent decades as policymakers respond to “perpetual crises” that hit consumer finances, particularly during the last two recessions.

“I think even before then there was an acknowledgment that this patchwork wasn’t quite working,” he said of existing safety net programs like Medicaid, Social Security and SNAP. “There are still a lot of gaps in this.”

MGI founder and former mayor of Stockton, California, Michael Tubbs, made waves before Covid hit when he launched the GI program in 2019, giving 125 residents $500 a month. In case of a pandemic was found to limit the impact of the initiativeTubbs proved promising enough to inspire subsequent efforts that helped further the movement for racial equality sparked by Covid and the killing of George Floyd.

“It’s not a radical concept anymore,” Tubbs said.

Not everyone agrees. Conservative groups that pushed back against aid programs during the pandemic now they aim for guaranteed income.

Tarren Bragdon, president and CEO of the Government Accountability Foundation, a right-wing think tank, criticized the “slow crawl” of GI projects, saying the overly generous welfare state is discouraging people from working — a concern shared by both parties. until about the last decade. His group, he searched restrict access to safety net applications through more intense employment requirements GI broadcast messaging to counter efforts in some cities it haunts them.

“Policymakers need to look for ways to expand people’s opportunities to find meaningful work without creating more reliance on government budgets,” Bragdon said.

Some GI proponents say the programs are doing just that, helping buyers take advantage of a business boom that competitors say is blocking them.

February report A study by the University of Pennsylvania’s Guaranteed Income Research Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts, analyzed a program that provided single-caregiver households with $500 a month from 2021 to 2023. It found that 28% worked full-time compared to 40% over the course of a year. % of control group.

Review a 18 month pilot Minnesota State St. Paul from 2020 to 2022, researchers found that six months after the program ended, participants had an employment rate of 63%, up from 49% when the program began.

Taniquewa Brewster.
Taniquewa Brewster.Courtesy of Taniquewa Brewster

Taniquewa Brewster of Austin, Texas, is working to supplement her income after the 12-month GI pilot she participated in ended last fall. Expecting to lose her $1,000 monthly stipend, the 38-year-old contract worker and mother of five used some of the money months before her last paycheck to get certified as a real estate leasing agent and notary public. She also began training as a doula.

“It basically helped me stabilize my family,” Brewster said.

In February, the following one Urban Institute education Highlighting the successes of the Austin program, including investing in skills training for participants – city council announced his plans Expanding pilot program with $1.3 million in taxpayer funding. But this week, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton moved in a different direction, fueled by concerns from fellow Republicans. claim to protest GI program in the Houston area ocaLED “socialist experiment” and “overthrow of illegal and illegitimate government”.

Idaho Republicans passed a measure last month banned GI programs that do not require work or training. Their colleagues Iowa and Arizona Democratic Gov. Kathy Hobbs vetoed the latter but took similar steps. When Wisconsin’s GOP majority blocked state funding for GI efforts — a bill targeting Madison, the state capital and the only city with a guaranteed income pilot — Democratic Gov. Tony Evers vetoed.

Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway raises her fist as she addresses the crowd
Madison, Wis., Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway hopes to continue the guaranteed income program for 110 people.Steve Apps / Wisconsin State Journal via AP file

“The idea that $500 a month is going to put someone out of a job, I feel like we’re not living in the same economy,” said Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway. The income threshold for Madison’s GI program, which graduated its first cohort last fall, was set at 200% of the federal poverty level to cover “those who are still eligible for other benefits who really need support.”

Finding government support for the pilot is “difficult,” Rhodes-Conway said, “so I’m trying to support our local nonprofit community to have and have the funds they need to keep the 110-person pilot alive.”

The idea that $500 a month would cause someone to quit their job, I feel like we don’t live in the same economy.

Madison, Wis., Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway

While some advocates are now calling for more ambitious GI programs — say, five years rather than one or two — the movement’s champions have already faced setbacks. After Tubbs’ high-profile re-election loss in 2020, even his progressive allies speculated whether his focus on the city’s GI program, which only had 125 participants, alienated voters who didn’t benefit from it.

But with more than 150 guaranteed or universal basic income pilots implemented or closed in the U.S., According to a Stanford University report, impulse opponents can be difficult to arrest. As of February, more than 60% of Americans said they support a national guaranteed income of $500 to $1,000 per month for adults who earn less than their community’s median income. request Commissioned by MGI.

More election tests are coming. In January, Stoney announced his 2025 gubernatorial bid in the swing state of Virginia, which replaced its Democratic governor in 2021 with Republican Glenn Youngkin.

“I’m going to focus on how we can help the working class together,” Stoney said of his campaign. “Guaranteed income can be a useful tool for many workers in this country who do not qualify for the current federal benefit structure.”

Next year will tell if voters agree.

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