Oakland to launch universal income program

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ByKate Larsen KGO logo
Tuesday, March 23, 2021
Oakland to launch universal income program
Oakland is expected to launch one of the largest basic income pilot programs in the country.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- On Tuesday, Oakland is expected to launch one of the largest basic income pilot programs in the country.

"With the pandemic, the number of people and the range of people who could use this, has grown tremendously," said Oakland City Councilmember, Dan Kalb.

On Tuesday Mayor Libby Schaaf will announce the program - the number of families, the monthly dollar amount they will receive, and for how long - all of it funded through philanthropy.

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"If the results of that show tremendous benefit: fewer people unemployed, more money in people's hands to stimulate the economy and all sorts of other positive impacts for all of Oakland, then we could look to see how we transition that into some public-private combination," said Kalb.

It has been done before in a handful of U.S. cities - the first time in Stockton in 2019.

"We gave 125 residents $500 a month," said former mayor of Stockton, Michael Tubbs. "We had money distributed on debit cards every month, we had researchers doing surveys, looking at spending data."

"What we found is people spend money on how you and I spend money. 99% of the money went to things that weren't drugs and alcohol, which is sad that I have to say that."

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Tubbs has since founded Mayors for a Guaranteed Income, with dozens of mayors from across the country. "We had a conversation this afternoon with the White House leadership about the need for a guaranteed income policy."

Kate Larsen: "What did you learn from Stockton's program?"

Michael Tubbs: "I learned that all the myths we have about why people struggle in this economy aren't true. I learned that the issue isn't that people don't want to work, or that people aren't working, it's that the economy just does not work and has not worked for working people."

Tubbs says after analyzing data from the first year of Stockton's pilot, they saw tremendous benefits. "It caused people to be able to be more likely to find full-time work, be less likely to be unemployed, we saw the guaranteed income had positive mental health impacts comparable to Prozac."

"My sources tell me it's going to mirror what we saw in Stockton, which is basically $500 a month." Money, which ABC7 News Insider Phil Matier, points out has no strings attached. "This is starting out as a private enterprise, using private money. The question is does it move over in the public arena, because once you start a program up and it's generous and everybody likes it, it's really tough to stop it."

San Francisco is exploring a similar program.

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