Do guaranteed income programs live up to all the hype? Oakland is looking to find out.
The city’s mayor, Libby Schaaf, took to Twitter on Tuesday to announce the launch of “Oakland Resilient Families”—a pilot program that will provide $500 a month in guaranteed income to 600 families. Schaaf said the experiment will span 18 months and benefit Black, Indigenous, and other people of color.
“Our vision is an Oakland that has closed the racial wealth gap and where all families thrive,” Schaaf said in a video. “And we believe that guaranteed income is the most transformative policy to achieve this vision and whose time has come. We believe poverty is not personal failure, it is policy failure.”
The program is open to all residents, including undocumented people. To be eligible, the household must have at least one child under 18 and must be earning at or below 50 percent of area median income, which, according to the program’s website, is about $59,000 annually for family of three. Three hundred spots are reserved for “very-low-income families,” which are those that earning $30,000 a year or less.
Schaaf said Oakland Resilient Families is one of the country’s largest guaranteed income pilots. The announcement comes just weeks after Stockton, California, released the promising first-year results of a similar program headed by its former mayor Michael Tubbs.
“I am hella proud of Oakland today,” Tubbs said. “I think the mayor (Schaaf) said it best: Part of this demonstration in Oakland and part of the demonstrations throughout this nation is really to reckon with the fact that we understand the issue isn’t that people don’t work, the issue isn’t that people don’t want to work; the issue is that the economy does not work for people.”
He continued: “I especially appreciate the explicit focus on racial justice in this demonstration … We understand that civil rights has always been about protection, not just from police brutality, but also from the brutality of poverty.”
Oakland families will be able to spend the money any way they chose. Applications will be available later this spring, and eligible families will be selected at random.