The concept of Universal Basic Income has been tested repeatedly in the US, and it has been successful all around. But there have been doubts about its efficacy. Even beneficiaries cannot believe that the practice of sending regular stimulus checks to Americans will ever be embraced at the federal or even the state level.
It began with small cities and counties across the US, and when beneficiaries first heard about the scheme, they had understandably wondered it if might be a scam. For Americans, the concept of getting a fixed amount every month irrespective of payments was an alien concept. But such welfare schemes are common across Europe.
Stockton in California was among the first to get off the mark with its Economic Empowerment Demonstration. The pilot project gave 125 residents of poor neighborhoods a generous sum of money. It was all part of a groundbreaking experiment.
When the initial handful of beneficiaries received that call, they were under the impression that it was a one-off payment. But when they finally realized that the stimulus checks were the closest thing to a regular income, they were overjoyed.
Individuals were issued stimulus payments of $500 for a span of 18 months. The beneficiaries included people who lost their regular jobs and were now holding down several to match their expenses. For many, it meant a way to pay back their credit card and student loan debts, while they concentrated on getting better jobs. It meant that they could set aside jobs that provided for their immediate needs.
Instead, they concentrated on picking up skills and education that helped them get better jobs. Many were subsisting on high-interest unsubsidized loans to attend online colleges that would improve their employment prospects.
The regular stimulus checks meant a road back to stability. They were now able to cover their car payments, repay debts, settle outstanding rent, and keep basic utilities like their phone from giving up on other necessities.
Americans have for years been accustomed to minimal or no support from the government even as the rich got away without paying taxes because of the way laws had been set. Mayor Michael Tubbs, had himself faced the trials and tribulations that millions across America have been facing. Now he is the mayor of one of the poorest cities in the country, the Central Valley of California.
He surmised that even a relatively small income, on a regular basis, would be enough to cover the occasional emergency expense. Such emergencies, including medical and health emergencies, are one of the toughest to move through.
Mayor Tubbs says that even a relatively modest stimulus check from the local administration of around $6,000 a year per recipient, would be enough to cover the occasional emergency expense of supplementing a minimum wage salary.
It would single-handedly eliminate any insecurity that presses down on many poor residents of Stockton. Mayor Tubbs took the initiative and with the guidance of, and funds from the Economic Security Project, a non-profit, he devised a pilot program. It was the first of its kind in America. His ultimate aim was both simple and ambitious. It was to be a pilot project. And its immense success would make draw the attention of national politicians. They would be left with no other choice than to support the scheme wholeheartedly and adopt it in other cities and states.
Mayor Tubbs hoped that the Stockton regular stimulus checks would force national politicians to even adopt guaranteed basic income as a federal policy. Three years down the line it has proved its efficacy. Beneficiaries gush about how that phone call three years earlier changed many lives.
It immediately changed hundreds of lives. They were able to give up measly part-time jobs. And most held multiple jobs to sustain themselves. While it helped them survive, it also tied them down in a rut from which they had little hope of breaking free in the immediate future. And this was especially true of those who had limited education.
Success Of Regular Stimulus Check Led To Its Extension
For many, the payments also proved great support for medical expenditure. Beneficiaries of the Stockton stimulus check were able to afford better treatment as many were afflicted with the virus. The monthly stimulus checks, supplemented by the disability payments, proved more than enough to pay their bills.
Another wholehearted proponent of guaranteed basic income has been the city of Los Angeles. The city administration has initiated the basic income program for Los Angeles County in which a thousand residents will receive $1,000 a month for the next three years.
The beneficiaries of this pilot program were randomly chosen from a group of 180,000 applicants. The stimulus checks have been established by the Board of Supervisors of Los Angeles to tackle income instability and poverty.
Given the poverty level and homelessness in Los Angeles, a huge number of residents applied. It proved that guaranteed basic income was an idea that was much needed and had found resonance among low-income Americans.
Sheila Kuehl, the LA County Supervisor, says that the universal basic income concept was popular among low-income groups and the administration could easily afford that. In a nation that gives billions in tax relief to the rich, uplifting the poor can be a huge relief on other resources.
There is a direct correlation between poverty and crime and every government is perfectly aware of it. Kuehl said that the concept of regular stimulus checks to the deserving allows them to bring stability into their lives and protect their families.
She said that the Los Angeles County program would eventually be considered a foundation stone that led to more elaborate programs. Such programs would provide economic stability and opportunity to every eligible American household.
Participants in the Los Angeles County program had to be eighteen years old and have a household income of less than $56,000 for individuals and $96,000 for a family of at least four. There are other requirements. The stimulus checks are going out through debit cards. The administrators of this program will be in touch with each beneficiary and assist them toward their financial and personal goals.