California mayors among coalition of leaders pushing for guaranteed income programs

Photo by Pepi Stojanovski on Unsplash

A number of California mayors are among a coalition of at least 25 city mayors across the U.S. who are pushing to roll out guaranteed income programs for low-income individuals in their cities.

Led by Stockton, California Mayor Michael Tubbs, the Mayors for a Guaranteed Income (MGI) program was launched in June with the goal of providing a monthly cash payment to those with low income who meet certain requirements.

Last year, Tubbs, at 29 years old launched the Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration (SEED) — the nation’s first city-led guaranteed income program — with help from many Silicon Valley entrepreneurs like Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey.

On Wednesday, September 16, 14 new mayors joined the MGI coalition, including California Mayor Robert Garcia of Long Beach.

“We are thrilled to announce the addition of 14 new Mayors from across the country to our coalition,” MGI tweeted on Wednesday.

The coalition currently has official pledges from 25 mayors of cities across 16 states.

California mayors now include Los Angeles’ Garcetti, Long Beach’s Garcia, Compton’s Aja Brown, and Oakland’s Libby Schaaf.

“At a moment of racial injustice, we see this as a way forward,” the Associated Press reported Garcetti saying.

With Los Angeles being the nation’s second-largest city following New York City, Garcetti said he was looking to launch a program involving both public and private funding that would help those “who have been written out of federal legislation.”

Undocumented immigrants were not among those eligible to receive the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economics Security Act (CARES Act) stimulus checks.

The concept of guaranteed income, though not new, drew attention during former Democratic Presidential candidate Andrew Yang’s campaign last year in which he proposed “universal basic income” to cover every American, regardless of how much they made.

MGI’s guaranteed income is meant to be a cash payment given directly to individuals and to serve as a “tool for racial and gender equity.”

According to MGI, the payment is “unconditional, with no strings attached and no work requirements.”

As to why the program utilizes mayors in handling the programs, MGI said mayors are the best equipped to advocate for residents due to their direct connection to cities.

“Cities are the laboratories of democracy, and mayors are closest to the communities they serve,” MGI writes on its website.

Garcia, in announcing his support of a universal basic income initiative for the City of Long Beach, said such efforts would be especially helpful during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The Coronavirus has affected every corner of the nation wreaking havoc on people’s lives and the overall economy. This toll has highlighted and exasperated the income gap in America and how families are unable to pay basic costs like housing and food,” said Garcia. “Though many have received unemployment insurance benefits, those funds have fallen short of basic needs and left many out of payments altogether.”

“It’s an innovative approach to supporting people in a rapidly changing economy,” he added. “Ongoing direct payments to individuals and families would help to start to address the inequalities being experienced across the country.”

Tubbs, on Wednesday, said that the goal is to encourage the federal government to launch a guaranteed income program.

“It has to be a federal solution,” Tubbs said, as reported by the Associated Press. “We understand that a guaranteed income is not a panacea for everything, [but] is a powerful tool that provides a floor for everyone.”

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