Residents in cities across the country are receiving $500 per month payments as part of a no-strings-attached experimental universal basic income program.
A version of the Universal Basic Income program, popularized by former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang, has gained more attention after the pandemic idled millions of workers.
Now places from Compton, California, to Richmond, Virginia, are trying out pilot guaranteed income programs as researchers hope the results give them a fuller picture of what happens when a range of people are sent payments that guarantee a basic living, AP reported.
An Upstate New York pilot program, funded by private donations, is providing 100 county residents making less than $46,900 annually $500 a month for a year.
The income threshold was based on 80% of the county´s average median income, meaning it includes both the poor and a slice of the middle class – people who face financial stress but might not ordinarily qualify for government aid based on income, AP reported.
One of the recipients is 57-year-old Anette Steele, a special education school aide who is getting her payments through a program in Ulster County, located less than 100 miles north of New York City, which covers parts of the Catskill Mountains and the Hudson River Valley.
Steele, who lives in the village of Ellenville with her retired husband, tells AP that the monthly payments of $500 provides her a welcome financial boost that has helped her pay for car insurance and groceries.
‘It lessens my bills,’ Steele said. ‘People think because you’ve been working so many years, that you make this tremendous amount of money. But no, actually.’
While most basic income programs tend to focus on cities, this upstate program branches out to a city, small towns and remote areas many miles from bus lines and supermarkets.
‘Showing that this approach will work not just in urban areas, but for rural parts of the country – which we know is one of our big national problems – I think there´s great opportunity there,’ Ulster County Executive Patrick Ryan told AP.
Ryan saw cash payments as a way to help local families struggling financially as the pandemic ebbs.