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Wednesday, January 19, 2022

The universal income experiment is coming to Oakland this summer with $500 payments

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Schaaf and others have found inspiration, courage, and a roadmap drawn by people like Michael Tubbs, the former mayor of Stockton, California, whose 2019 guaranteed income pilot program of 100 low-income families getting $500 a month—no strings attached—yielded some very positive and exciting results. Like the Stockton program, the Oakland program will set parameters for applicants based on their median income. Families at or below 50% of the city’s median income will qualify. The median income for a family of three in Oakland is around $59,000. Half of the placements in the program will be reserved for families who are earning below 138 percent of the federal poverty level,” which is about $30,000 per year for a family of three.

The program is a partnership through Oakland Resilient Families, with the Family Independence Initiative and the national Mayors for a Guaranteed Income. Since this is not a universal program covering all basic needs, it is not called a UBI program. According to Oakland Resilient Families, there will be multilingual options in the application for families that are non-English speaking, and while any low-income BIPOC family in Oakland can apply, around half of the program will be chosen from the East Oakland area—the area hit hardest by income inequality.

In her announcement of the program on Tuesday, Schaff gave a statement, saying“The poverty we all witness today is not a personal failure, it is a systems failure. Guaranteed income is one of the most promising tools for systems change, racial equity and economic mobility we’ve seen in decades.” Schaaf also said that along with dozens of other mayors who have signed on to Mayors for a Guaranteed Income, Oakland hopes this pilot program will help move the needle of what is possible on the federal level. “We have designed this demonstration project to add the body of evidence, and to begin this relentless campaign to adopt a guaranteed income federally.”

Family Independence Initiative Chief Executive Jesus Gerena reminded news outlets that Oakland has a long history of pushing for these kind of progressive solutions to the racial, economic, inequalities in our cities and country. “Guaranteed income has been a goal of the Black Panther platform since its founding. Direct investment in the community in response to systemic injustices isn’t new.” 

The program has raised around $6.75 million, much of which will be provided by Blue Meridian Partners, a national philanthropic organization. This is about 80% of what will be needed to cover the whole program. “I am hella proud of Oakland today,” said Tubbs.


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