Guaranteed Income - FAQs

Tacoma’s Guaranteed Income Demonstration FAQs

What is GRIT?
Growing Resilience In Tacoma (GRIT) is a first-of-its-kind guaranteed income demonstration in Tacoma, Washington. The demonstration will provide $500 a month for 12 months to families experiencing poverty.
GRIT is a collaboration between the City of Tacoma, United Way of Pierce County and the Mayor’s Guaranteed Income (MGI) Network, which includes city leaders, philanthropists, and nonprofit organizations. This collaborative demonstration aims to inform the development of innovative policies that effectively fight poverty and further the implementation of federal guaranteed income policies.
Mayors for a Guaranteed Income is a network of mayors across the country who believe in advocating for a guaranteed income, investing in the stories of those who directly experience economic insecurity and inviting and supporting others to join their efforts.

What’s the idea behind a guaranteed income?
It’s a proven, effective way to combat several factors that stifle economic mobility, including the coronavirus pandemic and its near and long-term economic fallout, our country’s history of entrenched poverty that hasn’t ebbed in decades and the growing concentration of wealth at the very top.

Why should Guaranteed Income be implemented?
Before the pandemic, nearly 40% of Americans reported they couldn’t afford a $400 unexpected expense. Our current economic crisis is tenuous and uncertain due to the pandemic, and our communities need help.

GRIT is an effective step toward addressing:

Poverty: Before the COVID-19 crisis, 40% of Tacoma residents were struggling to make ends meet and identified as Asset Limited, Income Constrained while Employed (ALICE). 
Support for Basic Needs: The cost of health care, utilities, transportation, and other essential living expenses is over $72,000 in Tacoma/Pierce County, yet 50% of residents don’t have a combined income over $72,000.
Guaranteed income will supplement, rather than replace, the existing social safety net and can be a critical tool for improving economic, racial and gender equity.

What is Guaranteed Income? How is it different from other conditional and unconditional programs like Universal Basic Income and Cash Transfer Programs?
Guaranteed Income is focused on serving populations that are disproportionately affected by economic challenges. It is not a replacement for wages but a much-needed supplement to families who desperately need a financial safety net. In Tacoma, $500 can pay utility bills or repair a car.  It’s enough to keep people on their feet and able to take the next step toward financial stability.
Universal Basic Income is unconditional and meant for all community members and would provide enough of a payment to cover all basic needs. 
Cash Transfer Programs provide money transfers to families to reduce poverty and may include conditions such as investments in the education and health of children. 

Why are you giving participants cash?
Research shows that recipients of cash transfer programs overwhelmingly use the money for basic needs – housing, utilities, food, unexpected medical costs or other financial emergencies. In addition, a lot of social safety net programs already include work or education requirements, and the pandemic has shown us we should not be putting up barriers to desperately-needed aid. We need to reverse the historical belief and stereotype that poor people won’t make smart financial choices. Data proves that they do, and we should honor and support people addressing crises in the way that allows them to thrive on their own terms.

Won’t participants stop working?
First, several international cash transfer initiatives over decades show no effect on the labor market. The most recent of which was done just this year in Alaska, where they’ve had a guaranteed income for nearly 40 years.
Second, we’re talking about $500. Would you quit your job for $6,000 a year? Guaranteed income is not a replacement for work, it’s a much-needed financial floor to supplement families who desperately need an economic safety net. A few hundred dollars a month can make a real difference in whether Tacomans can keep a roof over their heads and food on the table. In better times, guaranteed income has helped recipients quit a bad job and look for new employment, pay for childcare and relieve debt. 

Who gets to choose who participates and receives the monthly payments?
Participants will be randomly selected from a pool of qualified individuals. Qualified individuals must be Tacoma residents, with a focus on those who are Black, Indigenous and People Of Color; single heads of household; and meet United Way’s ALICE criteria (Asset Limited, Income Constrained while Employed).

How many recipients will be selected?
Around 100 participants will be selected as recipients.

If I’m not selected as a recipient, can I still receive the $500?
Unfortunately, no.

How will we know if GRIT is successful?
We will have independent researchers from the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy & Practice and the Center for Guaranteed Income Research (CGIR) consolidate key learnings. Quarterly reports will be provided on an online dashboard, and a year after the demonstration ends a report will be published that will highlight the demonstration and the impact the funds had on recipients.

What will happen if GRIT is successful?
GRIT is designed as a 12-month Tacoma-based demonstration. However, our hope is that the data and stories produced by our demonstration will lead to a guaranteed income being adopted at the national or state level.

When will research data be available to the public?
The demonstration will run through summer 2022. Data will be collected for another 6 months and a report will be released in late 2023.

How will GRIT be funded?
100% of the funding for the GRIT demonstrations will come from private donations. No taxpayer dollars from the City of Tacoma will be used to execute the demonstration.

Will Guaranteed Income be expanded to all of Tacoma?
At this time the demonstration is a one year pilot project. Funding has been secured to cover just this one year and limited distribution.

How can I volunteer with GRIT?
If you are interested in volunteering with GRIT please send us an email. In your email please include a copy of your resume, and highlight your area of expertise and the ways you believe you could contribute to the demonstration.

How do I get more information?
Check our webpage for regular updates, send us an email at GRIT@uwpc.org, or sign up to get our newsletter.