My ReACTion: A Guaranteed Basic Income for Alexandria

Is the American dream out of reach?  At ACT’s recent IMPACT Racial Equity Forum, our keynote speaker, Nisha Patel a national expert on mobility from poverty, presented some sobering data.  For most Americans, our children will not be better off.  And for those who are born and grow up in impoverished neighborhoods, the likelihood of escaping poverty is slim. Increasingly, the data is showing that poverty is not the result of individual actions, but rather a confluence of policies and systems that stand in the way of opportunity. Low wages, inadequate education, and lack of access to health care and unaffordable childcare are some of the barriers that hold people back on the economic ladder.  People are working hard, but they can’t get ahead.

As a community, we have a choice. We can surrender to the notion that poverty is something too big, too intractable to address.  Or we can deploy the creative talents and financial resources of our community to implement proven solutions.  Guaranteed income is a proven solution that can increase economic mobility, ensure greater economic freedom, and improve health and wellbeing.

A guaranteed income is a monthly, cash payment given directly to individuals.  It is supplemental income and is not designed to replace a job.  It helps low-income families even out the financial ups and downs, such as an unexpected car repair or reduced work hours, that prevent them from making ends meet.  It is unconditional, with no strings attached and no work requirements. It gives individuals the freedom to make the choices that are best for their families.  Because guaranteed income is so promising, more than 50 cities around the country are implementing a guaranteed income program.

The Alexandria City Council is currently considering using funding from the American Rescue Plan Act to fund a guaranteed basic income pilot.  It would offer $500 per month for two years to 150 families. Not only does it help individual families, but creates an economic ripple effect as families spend and support businesses in our community.  The proposal includes rigorous research efforts so that we can understand the impact of the program and inform future efforts.

In reading about the results from other national programs, I have been struck by the stories of participants.

One participant in the Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration (SEED) project noted:

“With the SEED money, there’s no need for the hustle. I have the time to actually sit there and actually take opportunities for myself, like if I felt like I wanted a new job or different a different job for better choices I was able to make it. I didn’t have to worry about it.”

One participant in the Magnolia Mother’s Trust, a guaranteed income pilot in Jackson, MS shared:

“It gave me the opportunity to be able to do what I wanted to do for my child. It made me feel whole as a mother.”

These experiences speak to our common values: to live a dignified, productive, safe, and creative life and to have the opportunity to pursue their dreams and goals.

The guaranteed income pilot is one of many projects being evaluated and City Council members will have tough choices to make.  Click here for information on the City’s process to identify investments for the American Rescue Plan funds.

I encourage you to reach out to City Council members to let them know that a guaranteed income pilot is a necessary and smart investment for our community.


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