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Twin Cities Mayor Initiates UBI Pilot Program For Low-Income Families Impacted By Pandemic

Twin Cities Mayor Initiates UBI Pilot Program For Low-Income Families Impacted By Pandemic

This is real change!

St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter recently instituted a UBI pilot program for low-income families impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, TwinCities Pioneer Press reports.

Mayor Carter recently announced an 18-month universal basic income (UBI) pilot program for 150 low-income families impacted by the pandemic in St. Paul, Minnesota. Carter linked the uptick in violent crime nationally to race-based poverty and widespread financial instability exacerbated by feelings of hopelessness due to COVID-19, calling it a “series of compound crises.” During a press conference at City Hall, Carter acknowledged the fact that more than 70,000 residents in a city of 315,000 people had applied for unemployment. 

“We have more families right now that are experiencing homelessness, more families that are out of work, more families that are struggling to feed their children. What’s changed in our country right not a number of police officers. What’s changed is an amount of desperation. If our budget does not reflect our values, they’re not our values,” Carter said. 

The UBI pilot program will run for 18 months, funded largely through philanthropic efforts and $300,000 granted through the federal CARES Act with The Mayors for Guaranteed Income national network overseeing funding for the program evaluation. The network includes about 20 mayors from various cities including Atlanta and Los Angeles who have come together to narrow the gap between rich and poor Americans, backed by major influencers including Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey. The goal is to utilize the pilot programs as a way to demonstrate the effectiveness of UBI to state and federal leaders with the hopes of implementing it nationally. 

Stockton, California Mayor Michael Tubbs began his UBI pilot in 2018, granting monthly $500 payments to 125 families, recently extending the efforts to January 2021. Through study and evaluation, research shows that Stockton residents benefitting from UBI have been spending the extra funds primarily on necessities like food, clothing and shelter, contrary to what critics hypothesized. 

Applicants for Mayor Carter’s program must be a member of CollegeBound St. Paul, an initiative focused on creating college fund accounts for children, demonstrate that they have been impacted by the COVID-economy via job cuts, reduced work hours, sickness, or inability to find affordable child care, and be among four of St. Paul’s lowest income ZIP codes - 55104, 55106, 55119, and 55117. 

While there are other programs set up to provide financial assistance, city council members say they have failed to stand the test of time, oftentimes not keeping up with the actual cost of living or requiring so many conditions working against its original intentions and thus keeping the poor, poorer. The UBI program seeks to offer unconditional payments with no strings attached and no work requirements. 

Photo Courtesy of Evan Frost/MPR