Some low-income families of color in Oakland will soon receive $500 a month in no-strings-attached cash as part of a privately funded program, Mayor Libby Schaaf said in a Tuesday announcement.
The Oakland Resilient Families program has raised nearly $7 million dollars to help families of color with at least one minor child making less than $30,000 a year.
Under the plan, participants will be randomly selected, and white people — who earn three times as much as blacks on average in the city — are not eligible.
“We have designed this demonstration project to add to the body of evidence, and to begin this relentless campaign to adopt a guaranteed income federally,” Schaaf, a Democrat, said.
The program is the latest test of an idea that has gained traction around the country. More than two dozen mayors from around the country have signed on to “Mayors for a Guaranteed Income,” an organization that seeks to mitigate the effects of urban poverty with free cash.
An expanded philosophy of a universal basic income is a tenant of Democrat Andrew Yang’s bid for New York mayor and failed presidential run.
Former Stockton, Calif. Mayor Michael Tubbs founded the organization and said six similar programs in other cities should be rolled out by the summer.
The Oakland project is one of the largest in the US so far, targeting up to 600 families.
It’s the first program to limit participation to people of color and indigenous communities — a nod to the legacy of the Black Panther Party, which was founded in Oakland.
“Guaranteed income has been a goal of the Black Panther platform since its founding,” said Jesús Gerena, CEO of Family Independence Initiative, which is partnering with the program. “Direct investment in the community in response to systemic injustices isn’t new.”
Guaranteed income proposals in the US date back to the 1700’s, and the Nixon administration proposed several family assistance programs to replace welfare and shore up blue collar political support.
Studies found the extra money did not deter people from working, but the measures were never passed by Congress.
An independent review of Stockton’s lapsed guaranteed income plan found 40 percent of recipients had full-time jobs within a year compared with 28 percent before the program started
“The fact that mayors are piloting (guaranteed income programs), using political capital to raise capital to allow their constituents to have basic necessities, is a policy failure,” Tubbs said. “It’s an admission that we need to do more.”
A form of guaranteed income has taken effect during the last year with three stimulus checks sent to middle class and low-income workers across the US. In addition, the expansion of the child tax credit in President Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package gives parents temporary monthly payments of up to $300 per child.
A proposal by California Assemblyman Evan Low, a Democrat, would give $1,000 a month to adults with certain incomes paid for by a new tax on multi-millionaires.
Low admits the $129 billion proposal is unlikely to pass, but his plan is to get people used to the idea.
“The initial shock seems to wear off the more people are educated and realize the benefits of having more control over their lives,” Low said.
With AP wires