On November 15, City Council authorized the Interim City Manager to execute agreements to implement a Guaranteed Basic Income (GBI) pilot program that will provide $1,000 per month to approximately 150 households over two years.
GBI programs provide a flat monthly cash payment to a defined population. These unconditional payments allow recipients to make their own spending decisions. The set period allows data collection, which may inform larger policy and program development to alleviate poverty.
Research indicates that guaranteed basic income programs increase expenditures on education and training, improve food security, and improve measures of well-being among recipients. The City of Stockton’s pilot program is a well-known local example, demonstrating increased financial stability among recipients compared to a control group.
Alameda’s Guaranteed Basic Income pilot program
The City of Alameda will fund its pilot program with $4.6 million in American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) funds, with $3.6 million for direct cash payments to program participants. Program partners will include Operation Dignity as the implementing partner ($600,000), Abt Associates as the research partner ($309,940), and Community Financial Resources as the financial partner ($27,764) responsible for distributing the monthly payments.
City staff said that the income threshold to qualify is expected to be 200 to 300 percent of the federal poverty level, corresponding to a household income of $55,000 to $80,000 for a family of four. Based on U.S. Census data, this corresponds to approximately 8,000 to 12,000 Alameda households.
Staff will work with the three program partners over the coming months to formalize the research and program design structure and determine how 150 households will be selected from among those qualified. Applications will become available in Spring 2023.
Six out of seven public members spoke in support. Jackie Zipkin of Transform Alameda commended Council for positioning Alameda “as a national leader in providing economic stability,” and benefitting “Alameda’s most vulnerable residents.” Savannah C. complimented City staff for laying the groundwork for a successful program.
Councilmember Tony Daysog opposed the program, saying he couldn’t approve $4.5 million spent on only 150 households. Councilmember Trish Herrera Spencer concurred, saying she preferred to see the money spent on programs benefitting more residents, such as mental health services and infrastructure needed to help the City return to in-person meetings. She was also concerned with what she considered high administrative costs.
Councilmember John Knox White noted that this is a pilot program, but he hopes the data generated will lead to permanent state and federal funding streams. Mayor Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft said this pilot program is based on successful programs implemented in cities across the country, Canada, and in other countries. She said she also hopes to see this program expand.
In the final vote, City Council authorized executing agreements to implement a Guaranteed Basic Income pilot program with a 3-2 vote. Mayor Ashcraft, Vice Mayor Malia Vella, and Councilmember Knox White voted in favor, while Councilmembers Herrera Spencer and Daysog voted against.
Contributing writer Karin K. Jensen covers boards and commissions for the Alameda Post. Contact her via [email protected]. Her writing is collected at https://linktr.ee/karinkjensen and https://alamedapost.com/Karin-K-Jensen.