Local leaders across the United States are turning to private donors to fund an out-of-the-box policy experiment they think could go mainstream: Giving cash to residents, no strings attached.
Newark, Milwaukee and Stockton, Calif., are among the cities testing versions of what’s known as universal basic income, a program under which residents receive a set amount of money, regardless of their income level.
Universal basic income has long been discussed as a potential remedy for income inequality, but former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang thrust the idea into the national debate when he made it a centerpiece of his campaign. While Yang may now be out of the race, conversation around universal basic income isn’t going away.
“I would love to see this spark a flame across the country,” she said.
At a time when Republicans are controlling the agenda in Washington, local officials in Democrat-controlled Newark, Milwaukee and Stockton see an opportunity for their cities to become laboratories for policy making. Not only will these experiments prompt more public discourse, but they‘ll likely add to the existing body of research on the subject.
In its truest form, universal basic income, sometimes referred to as guaranteed income, gives the same amount of money to residents regardless of income level.
In Stockton, 125 residents — all living at or below the median income level — receive $500 a month. Details of the Milwaukee and Newark pilots are still being worked out, but both Baraka and Lewis say they want to include residents who are living in poverty as well as those considered lower middle class.