STOCKTON, Calif — Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs has not been shy when talking about his city's Universal Basic Income program. Tubbs' Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration, otherwise known as the SEED Project, launched in 2018 with one goal: give 125 people $500 a month for 18 months and see if improves their living situations.
And it appears to have worked, according to the researchers who oversaw the study, which ends in July 2020. People receiving the money, much of which was traceable because it's disbursed on debit cards, spent nearly 40% of it on food, researchers told the Associated Press last year.
About 24% went to sales and merchandise at stores like Walmart, 11% went to utility bills, and 9% went to auto repairs and fuel. The rest went to a combination of medical expenses, insurance, donations, education and more.
After being known for years as having one of the United States' largest municipal bankruptcies of which it climbed out in 2015, Stockton is now taking charge on an idea that was once a dream of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's. On Monday, nearly two years after launching the program, Tubbs announced another milestone in the country's quest for Universal Basic Income: a coalition of 11 city mayors, collectively known as Mayors for a Guaranteed Income.
"As leaders of our respective cities, we see firsthand how poverty and economic insecurity afflict our neighborhoods and families," the coalition wrote in an opinion piece published by TIME magazine. "Nearly 40% of Americans cannot afford a $400 emergency, and rising income inequality is compounded by a growing racial wealth gap."
The coalition is comprised of Tubbs, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, Compton Mayor Aja Brown, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, Ras J. Baraka, mayor of Newark, N.J., Chokwe Antar Lumumba, mayor of Jackson, Miss., Melvin Carter, mayor of St. Paul, Minn., Adrian Perkins, mayor of Shreveport, La., Stephen Benjamin, mayor of Columbia, S.C., and Victoria R. Woodards mayor of Tacoma, Wash.
Those 11 mayors, who oversee a population of roughly seven million people, plan to invest in "guaranteed-income pilots and advocate for state and federal cash-based policies."
Coming off the apparent success of Stockton's SEED program, several mayors involved in the coalition either launched their own version, or voiced their support, of a guaranteed-income program.
- The city of Newark is calling for a pilot on guaranteed income.
- In 2018, Mayor Lumumba of Jackson, Miss., showed support for the private, non-government program Magnolia Mother’s Trust, which gives $1,000 a month to Black mothers living in subsidized housing.
- At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, Minneapolis Mayor Melvin Carter provided $1,000 grants for over 1,000 families.
- Also in response to the pandemic, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti started the Angeleno Campaign, which is intended to help low-income residents, with as much as $1,500 being provided to families. To date, over $10 million has been raised from private donations for the program.
- In Compton, Mayor Aja Brown, in a partnership with the non-profit Give Directly, plans to distribute $1,000 to families in need.
Years after Dr. King called for a UBI program in America to end the country's ever-growing wealth gap — especially between communities of color and their white counterparts — the program was pushed again to the forefront of American politics.
Former Democratic presidential contender Andrew Yang made Universal Basic Income one of the pillars of his campaign, telling people every chance that he had that he wants to give them $1,000 for free every month.
And his idea still has legs. Since dropping out of the race, Yang has continued to push for a UBI, even touting its benefits before lawmakers passed, and President Trump signed, a bill sending $1,200 to Americans because of the pandemic.
Whether or not it could be seen as viable by current presidential hopefuls is still unclear.
While President Trump hasn't even hinted at a similar program, he has pushed for a potential second round of stimulus checks for Americans who are still struggling because of the pandemic. Many still haven't received their first $1,200 checks.
In a 2018 interview, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden claimed to not be a fan of the idea.
Meanwhile, the person many see as Biden's likely running mate, California Senator Kamala Harris, both pushed for a $500-a-month basic income as well as a $2,000-a-month stimulus check during the pandemic and for three months after.
- Stockton is giving some residents $500 a month. Is the city's Universal Basic Income experiment working?
- Answering your questions regarding the SEED Project in Stockton
- How people in Stockton spent their free $500 Universal Basic Income
- In Stockton, Universal Basic Income — Andrew Yang's buzzy campaign idea — gets a test run
- Dr. King's dream lives on in Stockton mayor's income experiment
STAY UP TO DATE ON EVERYTHING HAPPENING IN STOCKTON BY DOWNLOADING OUR APP:
►Stay in the know! Sign up now for the Daily Blend Newsletter