Oakland announces they will be sending low-income families of color $500/month with no restrictions

The mayor of Oakland, California announced on Tuesday that the city would be sending low-income families of color $500 a month with no rules on how they can spend the money.

This program is the latest attempt at a “guaranteed income” which many people believe would decrease the stresses of impoverished families and help jog the economy. The Mayor of Oakland, Libby Schaaf, stated, “We have designed this demonstration project to add to the body of evidence, and to begin this relentless campaign to adopt a guaranteed income federally.” 

The idea of a guaranteed income isn’t new, but it has been seeing a revival as of late. In 2020, then Democrat presidential candidate Andrew Yang gained a lot of attention for his advocacy of a universal basic income. Earlier than that, in 2019 Stockton, California started its program for a guaranteed income led by Mayor Michael Tubbs.

Tubbs has said he expects six more cities to join in the initiative. Mayor Schaaf of Oakland stated in a press conference on Tuesday that the goal of her program is to ultimately lower the city’s racial income gap. While African American families earn a median income of less than $50,000, white families earn a median income of around $100,000. Eligible individuals must be low-income that identify as black, indigenous, or a person of color. To qualify, the family must earn 50 percent or less of the city’s median income or about $59,000 for a family of three. The family must also have at least one child under the age of 18.

Oakland officials have emphasized that the money for this program would come from private donations rather than being taxpayer funded. Roughly $6.7 million of the program’s funding raised so far reportedly comes from philanthropic organization Blue Meridian Partners. The program has faced a fair share of criticism for only going towards helping families of color. Some critics would like to see low-income families regardless of skin color to be helped by the program.

The program is currently set to give 600 residents $500 checks for 18 months. It’s starting off as an experiment and it remains unclear what will happen when the program ends. No one is certain if the money will be extended through another program or by other means. Families will be able to apply for the program later this Spring and will be randomly selected from a pool of applicants. The program is not operating on a first-come, first-serve basis and will be open to undocumented families as well as unsheltered families.





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