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© Reuters. Jonathan Pedro is a building services manager and single parent. His $500 monthly payment is part of a city antipoverty programme that gives low-income residents greater flexibility. Pedro poses for portraits in Cambr.


Andy Sullivan

WASHINGTON (Reuters] – Many cities in America are using cash to fight poverty, fueled by the pandemic coronavirus.

According to Reuters, at least 16 localities and counties offer no-strings-attached payment programs for low-income residents. In the coming months, at least 31 additional local governments will follow suit.

It’s quite a contrast to most U.S. poverty relief programs which offer benefits only for certain needs, such as groceries or rent. They also require that recipients have work or find it.

Advocates claim that the beneficiaries of aid know the best ways to spend their money, not bureaucrats.

Michael Tubbs was the mayor of Stockton in California when he created the first national “basic income” program.

Jonathan Pedro (37), said that he was able to buy equipment and pay off debt thanks to $500 monthly checks through the Cambridge, Massachusetts, program for single parents.

“I tried really hard to bounceback and this check makes that so much easier,” said he.

For much of the 20th Century, cash payments had been a cornerstone of U.S. security net but they fell out of favour amid concerns that they discourage people from working. Bill Clinton, Democratic President of the United States, reduced cash payments and made them temporarily more flexible. In 1996, he added a work requirement. These benefits are now only available to a fraction of the poor.

The idea of universal basic income gained popularity in recent years. This is despite concerns that automation could lead to mass layoffs and the belief of many racial justice advocates that the existing system is not adequate and unfair. Andrew Yang made the idea the core of his long-shot 2020 Democratic presidential campaign.

In two years’ time, the federal government proved its concept and sent more than $800billion to families in COVID-19-related aid packages. Through an extended child tax credit, Washington provided $93 billion more to 36 million additional families.

These relief packages contained $500 billion for state and local government. Records show that at least 16 local governments have used the money to create basic income programs in Stockton style for low-income residents.

Some others are using funds from Mayors For A Guaranteed Income or private Philanthropy.

It’s been 60 years since the end of the War on Poverty, but the concept of giving money to the poor still feels very fresh. Melvin Carter from St. Paul, Minnesota said, “Maybe that’s what the problem is.”

Yang’s proposal would have included everyone. The new programs, however, are smaller in scale and typically serve several hundred families.

Some cities allow people to apply, and then draw their names. Other cities focus on certain populations. St. Paul is targeting families with infants, and Pittsburgh plans to draw half the 200 participants.

Durham, North Carolina provides checks for prisoners who have been released from prison. The program is aimed at Black mothers living in public housing in Jackson (Mississippi).

These advocates hope that Washington will eventually agree to a program for basic income.

These researchers point out a number of positive studies. Stockton’s participants had a higher likelihood of working full-time while Jackson participants reported being more likely than Stockton to have paid their bills on schedule. A survey revealed that recipients had spent less time on cigarettes and alcohol in the past.


Some argue that expanding existing programs would make it easier for U.S. employers to find employees, despite the fact that many are having difficulty hiring workers.

Kevin Corinth said, “If the goal of the Trump administration is more work then we have other options.” He was a high-ranking White House economist and now works at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy.

It would also be costly to implement a national program. A proposal to raise the standard of living for all Americans, at $26,500 per family, in 2021 would require $876 billion. This is more than double U.S. antipoverty spending. A second proposal would be more expensive than the first.

The advocates say that the first thing they should do is preserve the extended child tax credit. It expires at the end this year. Democrats cut permanent funding from President Joe Biden’s $1.75 trillion “Build Back Better” spending plan due to cost concerns.

Low-income people like Andrea Coleman (40) are having a harder time making ends meet. The mother of three, who works as a home nurse, said she plans to buy a proper pair of shoes to replace the foam sandals that serve as her only footwear in St. Paul, Minnesota, where the temperature is expected to dip to 7 degrees Fahrenheit (-13.9° Celsius) this week.

She said, “It’s the extra money that helps you get over that little bump, that burden off of your back. I feel free.