Good news for low-income families of color in Oakland, Calif., as the city announced that it would be launching a program that would provide supplemental income over the next year and a half.
According to CNN, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf announced the Oakland Resilient Families program this week, which will send monthly payments of $500 to residents to Oakland’s lowest earning families of color. There will be no conditions attached to the payments, so families can spend the money however they see fit.
“The poverty we all witness today is not a personal failure, it is a systems failure,” Schaaf said in a statement. “Guaranteed income is one of the most promising tools for systems change, racial equity and economic mobility we’ve seen in decades.”
In order to qualify for the program, a family must be able to prove that it has at least one child under the age of 18 and must either meet or fall below the city’s median income which is currently estimated as $59,000 for a family of three. Half of the spots in the program will be reserved for families that earn about $30,000 for a family of three, well below the federal poverty line.
A multilingual screening form will be released at some point during the spring or summer, with undocumented as well as families without a stable home also eligible to apply for assistance. As the families don’t have to work for the payments, the money isn’t considered taxable income. Following the initial round of applications, 600 families will be chosen at random to receive the initial round of payments later this year.
Oakland is not the first nor only city to experiment with providing a guaranteed income for its residents. In 2019, the city of Stockton, Calif., began giving 100 residents $500 payments for 18 months to combat poverty, and a recent study showed the program made a significant impact. Late last year, Compton Mayor Aja Brown announced that the city would launch a pilot program to give regular payments to 800 of the city’s lowest earning families.
Given the economic toll of the pandemic, and the hesitation in Congress to increase the federal minimum wage, it wouldn’t surprise me if more and more cities experimented with guaranteed income programs to combat the ongoing problem of wealth inequality.