Story at a glance

  • Former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang is running for mayor of New York City.
  • The mayoral candidate promised the largest basic income program in United States history.
  • On average, his plan promises $2,000 per year to New Yorkers living in deep poverty.

Andrew Yang might have made his money as a businessman, but he made his name on the presidential campaign trail as an advocate for a universal basic income. Now even his rivals have adopted the idea, but Yang hopes to position himself as the “anti-poverty candidate” in New York City’s mayoral race. 


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“I’m running for mayor for a very simple reason: our city is in crisis and I believe I can help,” said Yang in a release announcing his candidacy. “We have been failing too many people for too long. Though the issues facing New Yorkers today are worse than they were a year ago, the root causes took hold long before this pandemic. To bring our City back, we need to make our home the nation’s leading anti-poverty city.”

He’s promising the largest basic income program in United States history — although not quite a universal one. Still, a basic income program for New Yorkers living in deep poverty would cost $1 billion per year in cash, according to Yang's plan. The program would give 500,000 residents, regardless of immigration or legal status, an average of $2,000 per year and up to $5,000 per year in cash relief through the existing IDNYC — a government-issued photo identification card for people older than 10 years old who live in New York City — although Yang also plans to create a People’s Bank of New York City. 

“We will lift hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers out of deep poverty, putting cash relief directly into the hands of those who desperately need help now,” said Yang. 


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A basic income program in New York City would be significantly larger than any other, but the concept isn’t new. After research shows similar programs were successful in Stockton, Calif., and New Jersey, mayors from 11 cities across the country formed a coalition to explore cash payment programs in their cities and advocate for guaranteed income programs. 

While it's called “basic income,” the money itself wouldn’t be categorized as “income” for the purposes of eligibility for other government programs that many New Yorkers depend on. Nearly one-fifth of the city's residents lived in poverty before the pandemic, with Black and Latinx residents overrepresented. After the city became a hotspot for COVID-19 early in the pandemic, many of the city’s more affluent residents left — while those left behind fell deeper into poverty.

“New York City is confronting a crisis the likes of which we have never seen before. The times we live in require a transformational leader who offers a clean break from the politics of the past, a relentless problem-solver who will make our city work not just for political insiders but for all New Yorkers,” said Congressman-elect Ritchie Torres of the Bronx, who became one of the first openly gay Black men elected to Congress in November and is a co-chair of the campaign. 


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Published on Jan 15, 2021