New Guaranteed Income Experiments Give Away Hundreds of Dollars Each Month to Address Wealth Gap

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Some U.S. cities are beginning universal basic income programs to help low-income individuals and families and determine if the additional support will lead to long-lasting and positive effects.

The city of Shreveport, Louisiana, recently began accepting applications for a universal basic income program that will select 110 families to receive $660 a month for a year, according to KTBS. Single parents who are 120 percent below the federal poverty line are also eligible to apply.

“An estimated 25% of the citizens in Shreveport are living in poverty and a guaranteed income would empower recipients to address their most urgent day-to-day needs and unpredictable expenses,” Mayor Adrian Perkins said in a press release, the Associated Press reported.

The topic of a universal basic income, or UBI, has received increasing attention in recent years as a way to curb economic inequality in the U.S.

The Center for Hunger-Free Communities at Drexel University defines UBI as a consistent, unconditional payment sent by the government to ensure “a basic standard of living for every member of a community.” Such a program would help offset the rising cost of living amid stagnant wages, the organization explained.

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For the Shreveport program, participants will be selected through a series of lotteries conducted by an independent outside party, the city’s website explains. Those selected will then be divided into two groups — one who will receive the monthly stipend, and a “control group” who will not.

“The control group allows us to understand the impact of guaranteed income over time amongst two similar groups of people: one who receives guaranteed income and one who does not,” the city explained. “People assigned to the non-participant group will not receive a guaranteed income through the program and will not be invited to participate in any further research activities.”

Mayor Perkins is part of the organization Mayors for a Guaranteed Income, a collection of U.S. mayors who are advocating for recurring cash payments for citizens.

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In Atlanta, a new pilot program is offering 275 residents $500 a month for a year and is open to people who are living 200 percent below the poverty line, according to the Urban League of Greater Atlanta.

“This is an important first step to achieving economic security, especially for those who have been overlooked and left behind because of economic inequality,” former Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, also a fan of Mayors for a Guaranteed Income, said in a statement on the website.

“This initiative will allow us to act against poverty and equip vulnerable residents with a means of meeting their basic needs and achieving greater success,” she added.

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The Urban League of Greater Atlanta said research shows recipients of similar programs overwhelmingly use the funds on basic needs, including housing, utilities, food, unexpected medical costs and other financial emergencies.

On its website, the group addressed criticism of universal basic income programs that proclaim recipients may stop working once they begin receiving money.

“That’s a harmful stereotype around this concept and other social safety net programs; but the facts show that simply isn’t the case,” the group said. “Research on several cash transfer initiatives over decades has shown that there is no negative effect on the labor market, and in fact recent research shows recipients found more work.”

“And most proposals for a guaranteed income are rather modest — would you quit your job for $6,000 a year?” they added.

Atlanta residents can apply for the program here.

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