Silicon Valley Is Helping Cities Test A Radical Anti-Poverty Idea

By Candice Norwood
Governing

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Starting in early 2019, 100 Stockton residents will receive $500 a month for 18 months. The goal is to document the effect of a guaranteed income on their quality of life.

Governing

Six years ago, facing housing foreclosures and a corruption investigation by the state, Stockton, Calif., became the largest city at that time in U.S. history to file for bankruptcy.

Now, the diverse, working-class community is out of bankruptcy, and the city’s 27-year-old mayor, Michael Tubbs, has a radical plan he’s testing to reinvent his hometown: Give every resident $500 a month.

The idea is called universal basic income (UBI). It can be traced back to the 16th century but has only started to be tested in the 20th century — and largely outside of the United States.

Several California cities — Stockton being the latest — are getting in the game, thanks to financial backing from Silicon Valley entrepreneurs.

Mayor Tubbs’ office has partnered with the Reinvent South Stockton Coalition and the Economic Security Project — co-chaired by Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes — to launch the Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration (SEED).

Starting in early 2019, 100 Stockton residents will receive $500 a month for 18 months. The goal is to document the effect of a guaranteed income on their quality of life.

Natalie Foster, co-chair of the Economic Security Project, first met Mayor Tubbs at a conference last year, where he told her that he had been interested in universal basic income since reading Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s book, Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?, in which the civil rights leader advocated for guaranteed income as a solution to poverty.

SEED is supported by a $1 million grant from the Economic Security Project and about $200,000 more in private donations.

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