SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The mayor of Oakland, California, on Tuesday announced a privately funded program that will give low-income families of color $500 per month with no rules on how they can spend it.
The program is the latest experiment with a “guaranteed income," an idea that giving poor people a set amount of money each month helps ease the stresses of poverty that often lead to poor health while hindering their ability to find full-time work.
The idea isn't new, but it's having a revival across the U.S. after some mayors launched small, temporary programs across the country in a coordinated campaign to convince Congress to adopt a national guaranteed income program.
The first program launched in 2019 in Stockton, California, led by former Mayor Michael Tubbs. Tubbs, who founded the group Mayors for a Guaranteed Income, has said about six similar programs in other cities should be up and running by the summer.
“We have designed this demonstration project to add to the body of evidence, and to begin this relentless campaign to adopt a guaranteed income federally,” Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said.
The Oakland Resilient Families program has so far raised $6.75 million from private donors including Blue Meridian Partners, a national philanthropy group. To be eligible, people must have at least one child under 18 and income at or below 50% of the area median income — about $59,000 per year for a family of three.
Half the spots are reserved for people who earn below 138% of the federal poverty level, or about $30,000 per year for a family of three. Participants will be randomly selected from a pool of applicants who meet the eligibility requirements.
Oakland's project is significant because it is one of the largest efforts in the U.S. so far, targeting up to 600 families. And it is the first program to limit participation strictly to Black, Indigenous and people of color communities.