During the sharing of ideas part of the March 24th City Commission meeting, Commissioner Dianne Williams-Cox asked for more information about the success of cities using “monthly income” programs to address poverty.
Commissioner Williams-Cox noted that many cities across the country are dealing with poverty by using a program to identify or select a small group of people to receive a monthly income.
Commissioner Williams-Cox asked Mayor Dailey if he would reach out to his fellow mayors across the country to inquire about the results of such programs. Mayor Dailey said he would seek out the information and bring the findings back to the Commission.
Commissioner Porter added that she was aware of such programs and voiced the opinion that the pilot projects were “cool” and “extremely promising,” and something that she wished to learn more about.
Monthly Income Programs
A number of cities have launched guaranteed income programs including Gainesville, Florida and Oakland, California. Proponents say the programs provide households financial stability and come without the social stigma of programs such as welfare and food stamps.
This year the Gainesville City Commission voted to implement a pilot program slated to begin in October. Gainesville Mayor Lauren Poe has been part of the national initiative, “Mayors for a Guaranteed Income,” to supply monthly, direct cash payments to people who are struggling. The pilot program would begin by giving cash to people with criminal records and who are looking to rehabilitate their lives.
Elected officials in Oakland, California recently unveiled the Oakland Resilient Families program which will give qualifying families $500 a month, with no rules on how they spend it. The program has so far raised $6.75 million from private donors.
To be eligible for the Oakland scheme, people must have at least one child under 18 and income at or below 50% of the area median income – about $59,000 a year for a family of three. The program will limit participation strictly to “Black, Indigenous and other communities of color.”
“The poverty we all witness today is not a personal failure, it is a systems failure,” Libby Schaaf, Oakland’s mayor, said in a statement. “Guaranteed income is one of the most promising tools for systems change, racial equity and economic mobility we’ve seen in decades. I’m proud to work with such committed local partners to build a new system that can help undo centuries of economic and racial injustice, and point us all toward a more just society.”
Free Market Economist Supported Guaranteed Income
Prominent free market economist Milton Friedman supported a guaranteed income in his book “Capitalism and Freedom”.
Friedman argued that the approach could “replace the ragbag of specific welfare programs” and increase government efficiency. The approach would allow poor people to have the same freedom of those with resources without “requiring them to come before a government official to tally all their assets and liabilities and be told that you may spend X dollars on rent, Y dollars on food, etc.”
It is important to note that none of the current programs being promoted by cities contemplate ending the current web of social safety net programs.
Friedman also argued that a guaranteed income would help end the welfare trap. Federal programs currently penalize people who take a job by ending benefits. Referring to welfare, Friedman said, “we make it almost impossible for them to get off. In order for somebody who gets on to get off, he or she has to be able to have a really good job, because to get off gradually, to earn a little bit, now doesn’t pay…”
Based on polling results, U.S. adults are split on the idea of a guaranteed basic income.
A recent Pew Research Center survey revealed that a “narrow majority of U.S. adults (54%) say they would oppose the federal government providing a guaranteed income – sometimes called a universal basic income (UBI) – of about $1,000 per month for all adult citizens, whether or not they work; 45% favor the proposal.”
The survey indicated broad and intense opposition among Republicans and support by Democrats.
However, a 2020 Hill-HarrisX poll found a majority of voters believe the government should have a universal basic income program. Fifty-five percent of registered voters in the Aug. 2-5 survey were in support of universal basic income, while 45 percent were not.
The Hill-HarrisX poll found support for the program has gradually grown in the past year. The survey found an increase in support across demographic groups, primarily among younger voters and Democratic voters.
Tallahassee Reports will continue to follow the actions taken by the Tallahassee City Commission related to a guaranteed basic income.