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Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs announces the basic income program at an event in 2017 (Photo by Calixtro Ramos, The Record)

Stockton’s Mayor Testing Guaranteed Basic Income for Residents

June 5, 2018

Michael Tubbs, the 27-year-old mayor of Stockton, California has a radical plan to combat poverty in his cash-strapped city: a ‘no strings’ guaranteed basic income for residents of $500 a month.

Starting in early 2019, Tubbs plans to provide the monthly stipend to a select group of residents as part of a privately-funded 18-month experiment to assess how people use the money.

“And then, maybe, in two or three years, we can have a much more informed discussion about, kind of, the social safety net, the income floor people deserve and the best way to do it because we’ll have more data and research,” Tubbs told Reuters.

The idea of governments providing a universal basic income to their citizens has been gaining traction globally. The Finnish government is running a two-year trial to provide 2,000 unemployed people with monthly payments of approximately $660. In Alaska, each resident receives an annual dividend check from oil revenues from the Alaska Permanent Fund, which Tubbs said is a model for his approach.

The Economic Security Project, a philanthropic network co-chaired by Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes is providing $1 million to fund the Stockton trial.

The group approached Tubbs at a conference to ask if Stockton would be interested in piloting basic income. “I jumped at the opportunity,” said Tubbs, who was familiar with the concept from the writings of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

The issue of economic empowerment is a personal one for Tubbs. Growing up in Stockton, where one in four residents live in poverty, his family relied on government assistance to meet their basic needs.

“My mom was on welfare for the first five, six years of my life,” he said. “You’d get food stamps, but that’s not cash, and maybe food’s not the biggest need … So this gives people more agency to kind of make the best decision.”


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