Finance

California city begins universal basic income experiment

The city of Stockton, Calif., has begun piloting a universal basic income (UBI) program for 130 residents over the next 18 months, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Under the program, the recipients will receive $500 a month with no conditions such as work or sobriety requirements, according to the Times. The organizers of the project have kept the identities of the beneficiaries secret.

"We are in a moment where big ideas are important and politically people are ready for them," Natalie Foster, co-chair of The Economic Security Project, told the Times.

The Silicon Valley-based organization donated $1 million in initial funding for the program, about a third of its total budget.

"The stories coming out of Stockton will put a real name and a face on what that economic insecurity looks like and what it looks like to make a different political decision," Foster said.

The first payments under the program were distributed on credit cards in February, with organizers soon able to collect data on how it was spent from a subgroup of "storytellers" among the recipients, according to the Times. While final results will not be available for the next few years, the program's backers hope to be able to illustrate its progress with individual anecdotes as the data take shape, according to the newspaper.

Numerous Democratic contenders for the presidency in 2020 have proposed similar measures. Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) have expressed openness to the idea of reparations for descendants of slaves, while Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) has introduced legislation commissioning a study on such a program.

Other Democratic candidates, entrepreneur Andrew Yang, includes a UBI of $1,000 a month as part of his platform, and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) has proposed a monthly "liveable incomes" grant to working families.

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