- In an effort to boost economic security nationwide, particularly amid the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19), 11 mayors have formed a coalition dubbed the Mayors for a Guaranteed Income (MGI).
- Stockton, CA Mayor Michael Tubbs worked with the nonprofit Economic Security Project to develop this network that will advocate for a monthly guaranteed income — also known as a universal basic income (UBI) — at all levels of government. The coalition will also invest in "narrative change efforts" to highlight the issue of economic insecurity, and will invite other cities to join MGI and support new pilots.
- Other founding mayors include Steve Benjamin (Columbia, SC), Keisha Lance Bottoms (Atlanta), Eric Garcetti (Los Angeles), Melvin Carter (St. Paul, MN) and Libby Schaaf (Oakland, CA).
In a first-of-its-kind pilot last year, 29-year-old Tubbs launched the Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration (SEED) to provide over 100 low-income Stockton residents with $500 per month for a total of 18 months. The initiative was wildly successful, The Guardian reports, and led to the creation of MGI to foster widespread education and advocacy behind this initiative.
And Stockton isn't the only city that has explored the concept of guaranteed income, especially for in-need residents. The Angeleno Campaign in Los Angeles raised over $10 million from private donations to be distributed to residents via prepaid debit cards, and the City of Compton, CA partnered with the nonprofit Give Directly to distribute $1 million at random to families impacted by COVID-19.
Meanwhile, MGI member and Newark, NJ Mayor Ras Baraka launched a guaranteed income task force that produced a report of recommendations for a UBI pilot in Newark and a federal guaranteed income policy.
These explorations of guaranteed income have all been influenced by the current economic landscape in America: nearly 40% of Americans cannot afford a single $400 emergency; Black and Latinx women are paid 66 cents and 58 cents, respectively, on the dollar for every dollar a White man makes; and COVID-19 has "exposed the economic fragility of most American households," with a disproportionate impact on Black and Brown households, according to an MGI fact sheet provided to Smart Cities Dive.
"Economic insecurity isn't a new challenge or a partisan issue," MGI wrote in its fact sheet. "Wealth and income inequality have reached historic highs, and it is unacceptable that people who were working two and three jobs couldn’t afford basic necessities."
In fact, the concept of a UBI to tackle economic insecurity has been floated since the civil rights movement in the 1950s and '60s, when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called guaranteed income "the solution to poverty."
Wow. A universal basic income (guaranteed annual income) was what my father recommended as a primary way to eradicate poverty. This is a powerful step forward. #MLK @MichaelDTubbs @AndrewYang https://t.co/niVwszcdvr pic.twitter.com/iOtC1MPmg7— Be A King (@BerniceKing) June 30, 2020
Entrepreneur and 2020 presidential candidate Andrew Yang even built an entire campaign out of a promise for guaranteed income, garnering the support of billionaire Elon Musk and others.
The concept has also caught the attention of city groups like the National League of Cities (NLC) and the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM). In late 2018, NLC released a guide for piloting UBI in cities, while USCM's Jobs, Education & the Workforce Committee has long explored ways to advocate for guaranteed income programs.
"It's been on our radar for several years as we've been addressing the effects on employment from automation and trade," committee chair and West Sacramento, CA Mayor Christopher Cabaldon told Smart Cities Dive in a voicemail message. "Our experience this year with COVID in particular has underscored the deep need for preparation and for alternatives around ways of assuring everyone has economic base support that they need in order to function, to thrive in the American economy."
Last week, the jobs committee approved a resolution in support of guaranteed income, with that resolution going to an executive committee vote on Tuesday. Cabaldon told Smart Cities Dive the resolution calls for action on the state and federal level, and encourages mayors to continue their own guaranteed income pilots. He noted that MGI and USCM are separate entities, however they share some of the same members and leadership.