TACOMA, Wash. — Tacoma’s mayor has joined a coalition with about a dozen other mayors to explore giving cash to people every month with no strings attached. It’s part of an idea known as guaranteed income, or universal basic income, which was given a boost this year from presidential candidate Andrew Yang. A pilot program is already underway in Stockton, Calif.
“When I’m talking about transforming communities, it’s got to be more than just our policing system,” Mayor Victoria Woodards said. “It’s got to be more than criminal justice.”
The coronavirus pandemic has brought on economic devastation, with families struggling to make ends meet and lining up for food. It’s also magnified existing racial inequality. Woodards said when Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs asked her to sign on to his Mayors for a Guaranteed Income coalition, she was in.
“In order to fix some of the issues, some of the structural issues in our community, we have got to be innovative,” she said. “We’ve got to find things and try things we’ve never thought about.”
According to Mayors for a Guaranteed income, nearly 40% of Americans cannot afford a $400 emergency, and the racial wealth gap is growing. The median net worth of white households is 10 times that of Black households and eight times that of Latinx households. With the program, the mayors hope the government can help bridge that gap.
“The government has to correct the harms it has caused. It can’t do everything, and it shouldn’t do everything,” Tubbs said. “But when government has caused harm, then the government has a role in rectifying that.”
Tubbs’ program in Stockton is funded by a philanthropic grant, which gives $500 a month to 125 residents for 18 months and with no strings attached. With the pandemic, Tubbs said 46% of Stockton residents reported using most of the money on groceries.
Woodards said the concept still has a ways to go before any legislation is proposed to the Tocoma city council. She hopes to discuss it with the council and community in the near future. When asked about funding, she said she’s interested in pursuing a philanthropic grant, similar to what Stockton has done.
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