A network of mayors have formed a coalition in support of universal basic income and they just received huge backing from Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, who donated an additional $15 million to the cause.
Dorsey previously donated $3 million to the initiative run by the organization called Mayors for a Guaranteed Income.
Stockton, California Mayor Michael Tubbs, started the pilot program last year before the pandemic affected the U.S. and since then several more have begun pilot programs of their own or have them slated to begin in 2021.
What the research has found is that when given a basic income floor, people spend the money in much the same way as higher income earners: to pay for things like housing, food, and this year, necessities needed to stay safe during the pandemic.
Tubbs said data collected "signaled a system error" in how the government ensures each person has the means to survive.
"The fact that you have all of us mayors calling folks in the private sector to make sure that our constituents have the basic necessities needed to live with dignity is actually abhorrent and unacceptable," he told Cheddar.
Stockton identified 125 residents who made less than the city's median income and selected them to receive $500 per month for 18 months from the local government. Since the onset of the pandemic, Tubbs has been able to extend the program in his city through January 2021.
While the program started in Stockton, where the population is just over 310,000 residents, Tubbs said it is possible for the same program to flourish in a larger city like New York, so long as the government is willing to intervene.
"Basic income could be piloted in cities, but to get to scale the federal government has to step up. And I think we forget that there is precedent for this. In 1935, during a Great Depression, FDR came up with the idea of unemployment insurance and social security, which were big federal expenditures, which met the moment, however," Tubbs explained.
The current program is open to all cities, and mayors can apply for up to $500,000 to allocate among residents.
The hope is that with enough collected data through the Center for Guaranteed Income Research at the University of Pennsylvania, Tubbs and the coalition of mayors can provide Congress with tangible proof that financially empowering those without means is not only good for morale but a significant boost to the economy as well.
"The idea behind the pilot is to really push action on a policy level to show that it's not scary. To show that the majority of the American people understand the economy is not working for working people," Tubbs said.