Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney is expanding a guaranteed income program, thanks to new funds from Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. On Tuesday, Stoney announced that the city would receive a $500,000 grant that would allow them to expand the program to 55 families, thanks to a $15 million donation from Dorsey to association Mayors for a Guaranteed Income.
“The launch of the Richmond Resilience Initiative in late October constituted a significant investment in the health, wealth and dignity of Richmond families,” Stoney said in a press release. “Receiving this generous support so quickly after Richmond’s launch not only multiplies the city’s capacity to empower hardworking heads of household but endorses the pragmatic progressivism fueling this program.”
In October, days before Stoney was re-elected, he announced the Richmond Resiliance Initiative (RRI) would provide $500 per month for two years to 18 needy families, according to a press release.
The program is also funded by city allocations of some CARES Act funds and donations from the Robins Foundation, a Richmond-based foundation that provides grants to non-profits and government agencies. According to the press release, the RRI targets families who make too much to qualify for other benefits but still fall below a living wage. Participants are selected from among clients of a Richmond agency focused on helping low-income families.
In the October press release, mayor of Stockton, California, and founder of Mayors for a Guaranteed Income, Michael Tubbs said, “It is no surprise that Mayor Stoney brings such forward-thinking leadership to a challenge he’s identified in his community. Guaranteed income is the most direct way to address gaps left by conditional benefits systems, and the design of this program demonstrates how well he knows and serves his constituents who would otherwise be slipping through the cracks of an insufficient social safety net.”
Tubbs’ city instituted a similar program, and then Tubbs lost in his bid for re-election, according to Fox 40.
Other cities and governments have experimented with guaranteed basic income, including Finland, where 2000 citizens were given 650 euros a month to see if the program would improve employment among recipients. The program ran from 2017-2018, and was terminated earlier than expected, according to The American Thinker. Guaranteed basic income, which targets individuals under a specific economic level, is different than universal basic income, which targets all members of a population, according to MarketWatch.
In a report released earlier this year, Finnish researchers found, “The basic income recipients were more satisfied with their lives and experienced less mental strain than the control group. They also had a more positive perception of their economic welfare.”
However, researchers also found that the program did not increase employment among recipients, according to a University of Helsinki article.
“The results of the Finnish basic income experiment suggest that basic income does not increase employment,” the article states. “Basic income comes with the idea that unemployed people know what is best for them, and that without obligations and sanctions they will be more equipped to navigate the labour market. As people are able to keep the money they receive from basic income even if they get a job, the programme comes with significant benefits.”
Unlike the Finnish project, RRI doesn’t aim to improve employment, but rather to support families who are already employed but not making enough. “Guaranteed income payments are meant to supplement the existing safety net – a portfolio of risk-reducing measures designed to protect families from losing financial security or derailing long-term financial goals because of enduring poverty or an unexpected event like a global pandemic, severe recession, or personal tragedy,” Stoney’s October release said.
Stoney hinted at potential future government support of the mostly non-profit initiative.
“More than just a pilot program, this plan is a first step toward state and national policy that will help qualified, working families in need to close the gap between the social safety net and sustainable employment,” the Mayor said in October.
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