Story at a glance
- Announced on Tuesday, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf launched a pilot program allocating $500 to low-income families.
- Other cities, including Stockton, Calif., are implementing similar programs to add evidence of its effectiveness in reducing racial poverty gaps.
The city of Oakland, Calif., officially announced its implementation of a pilot guaranteed income program, which would allocate $500 per month to qualifying low-income households to use at their discretion.
Mayor Libby Schaaf (D) confirmed the launch of the program on Twitter on Wednesday. It is set to expire in 18 months, with 600 Oakland families being the first to participate in the trial run.
“Our vision is an Oakland that has closed the racial wealth gap and where all families thrive,” Schaaf said. “And we believe that guaranteed income is the most transformative policy to achieve this vision and whose time has come.”
Poverty is not a personal failure, it’s a policy failure. Today in Oakland we launched a guaranteed income pilot for 600 low-income BIPOC families to receive $500 a month for 18 months, no strings. We want to change the narrative. pic.twitter.com/78fDjUj4G1
— Libby Schaaf (@LibbySchaaf) March 23, 2021
Schaaf is one of the 40 U.S. mayors who are members of the advocacy organization Mayors for a Guaranteed Income (MGI), a group devoted to testing the effectiveness of a flat guaranteed income as a means to reducing poverty, primarily among communities of color who have been socioeconomically redlined from building wealth.
MGI was founded in June 2020 by former Stockton, Calif., Mayor Michael D. Tubbs (D). Rooted in civil rights icon Martin Luther King, Jr. ‘s philosophies, the concept gained more mainstream traction during the 2020 Democratic Presidential Primaries, when former candidate Andrew Yang introduced it as a major campaign platform.
Since then, 40 cities have decided to join MGI and work to test drive a universal basic income plan, including Stockton, Baltimore, Houston and Madison, Wis., among others.
“Part of this demonstration in Oakland and demonstration throughout this nation is really to reckon with the fact that we understand the issue isn’t that people don’t work, the issue isn’t that people don’t want to work, the issue is that the economy does not work for people,” Tubbs said.
While Schaaf and other local leaders aim to help relieve the economic burden of structural racism in Oakland, the larger goal of the pilot program is to prove that it can be done on a national level in the hopes of catching federal attention.