Tacoma mayor announces 'guaranteed income' for residents most in need
Guaranteed income for 100 struggling families will turn Tacoma into GRIT city
BY DONA PONEPINTO
For too many, having one job is not enough. That’s the reality facing tens of thousands of residents in our area. Often they have more than one job and still struggle to meet monthly expenses.
Before the pandemic, nearly 40% of Americans reported they couldn’t afford a $400 unexpected expense. The current economic crisis is even more tenuous and uncertain.
In Pierce County, the average cost of healthcare, utilities, transportation and other essential living expenses is more than $72,000 a year per household, yet half the local household incomes are less than that.
This economic crisis is not news to us. Collaborative efforts with a network of community organizations have long sought to alleviate the pain of economic hardship, combat poverty head-on and bring resilience to our community.
A guaranteed income is another layer, and natural extension, to these efforts.
For this reason, Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards has partnered with Mayors for a Guaranteed Income (MGI) and United Way of Pierce County to implement a guaranteed income demonstration in the city.
We fondly refer to this as the GRIT Demonstration – a demonstration of Growing Resilience in Tacoma. Though not a panacea, a guaranteed income is expected to modestly supplement recipient income and public benefits in the hope of increasing economic security.
We don’t just want families to get on their feet temporarily. We want to create support systems to help them thrive. Guaranteed income provides recipients the fiscal means to address their most urgent needs and provides a cushion for unpredictable expenses, external shocks and volatility.
These funds are meant to supplement, rather than replace, the existing social safety net and can be a tool for racial and gender equity.
Providing a guaranteed income is not a new idea. Unrestricted cash programs have been implemented globally in places as far away as Kenya, South Korea, Brazil and the Netherlands.
There are several direct payment plans in the United States with encouraging outcomes. In MGI’s Stockton, California demonstration, recipients who received a guaranteed income found full-time employment at more than twice the rate of non-recipients.
A program in Jackson, Mississippi saw 80% of participants able to pay all bills without additional support; the number of participants with a completed high school education increased from 63% to 85%.
What’s most significant, however, is the impact on real people. “My son wanted to go to a football camp – I was able to pay for that. So he got to go. I was able to buy him some new shoes.” reported Mekie, a participant in the Stockton demonstration who works in warehousing and lives with her two teenage sons.
“It’s basically, it’s all about them… things got a little easier. So my car payments are on time now. So it’s better. Rent’s been getting better.”
Participants in the GRIT Demonstration will receive $500 a month for 12 months as a supplement to their income and other benefits. Qualified individuals must be Tacoma residents, single heads of household, and meet United Way’s ALICE criteria (Asset Limited, Income Constrained while Employed).
ALICE includes individuals above the federal poverty level and below 200% of poverty. One hundred participants will be chosen at random from a pool of qualified individuals. Funding comes from donations and fundraisers, not Tacoma taxpayers.
We’ll be telling stories of Tacoma’s guaranteed income demonstration and its impacts over the upcoming year.
It is our sincere hope that you’ll read here how our multifaceted, collective efforts eliminate poverty and provide a brighter future for all Tacoma residents.
Dona Ponepinto is president and CEO of the United Way of Pierce County.
By Tony Black / KING 5
Dec. 10, 2020
TACOMA, Wash. — Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards says plans are underway to get a half-million dollar grant into the hands of Tacoma residents in need.
“Our community is pretty excited about it,” she said.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey made a $15 million donation to Mayors for a Guaranteed Income – a group of about 30 mayors nationwide, including Woodards, who believe guaranteed income is critical to ending poverty. The group was formed earlier this summer.
“I didn't know that, by being a founding member, all these great things would happen for my city,” she said.
Woodards made the announcement during Tuesday’s city council meeting that Tacoma will get $500,000. Woodards said they want a targeted approach to who gets the money -- referring to the United Way’s ALICE project, which aims to eradicate poverty by 2028.
ALICE is an acronym for Asset Limited, Income Compromised (but) Employed, or more simply -- those who earn more than the federal poverty level, but less than the basic cost of living. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services listed the 2020 federal poverty level at $30,680 for a family of five.
“We're focused on ALICE in Tacoma. And we're even talking about focusing on ALICE with children,” she said.
Woodards anticipates more information by March, as there are still many details to work out.
“When will we stand it up? What will it be called? How much will we give? How long would it last?” Woodards said.
Other questions like how to apply and how much money each resident would get also need to be figured out.
“I don't know that we'll start handing out payments in March. But I can tell you that we're going to move quickly, because families can't wait.”
Tacoma gets money from Twitter CEO to fund universal basic income pilot program
By Nick Bowman / MYNorthwest
Dec. 11, 2020
Part of a $15 million donation from Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to U.S. mayors will be coming Tacoma’s way, providing funding for a long-sought universal basic income pilot program.
Tacoma — one of 25 cities to receive money from Dorsey’s donation — will be getting $500,000. That will be in addition to another $100,000 from the Mayors for a Guaranteed Income (MGI) group.
Mayor Victoria Woodards is a founding member of the MGI, and has long pushed for direct, recurring cash payments to those in need as a means of tackling poverty and wealth inequality.
“We’re grateful for this generous grant that will allow us to accelerate our pilot building, and we are excited that we will soon be able to offer support to the Tacoma community members who need it the most,” she said in a statement issued to the Tacoma News Tribune.
Specifics for how — and to whom — money from the pilot program will be distributed have yet to be announced, with Woodards telling the News Tribune that the plan is have more details by March 2021.
The hope is to model it off a similar program in Stockton, Calif., where a portion of the city’s residents received direct monthly $500 payments. Roughly 43% of participants in that program worked full- or part-time; 11% took care of parents or children; 20% had some sort of disability; and just 2% said they weren’t looking for work. Of the $500 they received monthly, 40% went toward food, 25% to sales and other merchandise, and 12% was been spent on utility payments.
The eventual goal for Tacoma is to help supplement the income of impoverished, working class communities.
“We’ve got people who get up every day and go to work, and still don’t make enough to support themselves and their families,” Woodards told KIRO Radio in July. “How can we support them, so that they can continue to move forward? I think guaranteed income is one of the ways that we can level the playing field.”
Guaranteed cash payments to become a reality for some Tacoma residents facing poverty
By Allison Needles / TNT & KIRO 7
Dec. 9, 2020
Tacoma residents facing poverty soon will benefit from cash payments through a guaranteed income pilot program.
Mayor Victoria Woodards announced Tuesday that Tacoma is one of more than 25 cities across the country to benefit from a $15 million donation made by Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to Mayors for a Guaranteed Income (MGI). Woodards is a founding member of the group.
Tacoma’s cut of the donation is $500,000, on top of $100,000 in funding from MGI that City Council accepted last week in partnership with United Way of Pierce County.
“We’re grateful for this generous grant that will allow us to accelerate our pilot building, and we are excited that we will soon be able to offer support to the Tacoma community members who need it the most,” Woodards said in a statement.
Woodards told The News Tribune there are still details to iron out, including what thresholds need to be met for people to apply, how to apply and how to track the effectiveness of the program.
The goal is to announce the work plan for the pilot by March, she said.
Mayors for a Guaranteed Income was launched over the summer by Stockton, California Mayor Michael Tubbs, with other cities across the country already implementing their pilot programs. St. Paul, Minnesota, is providing up to 150 families with $500 per month in guaranteed income for up to 18 months. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania will provide 200 residents with $500 per month for 24 months.
At a City Council meeting on Tuesday, Woodards said that providing guaranteed income will help United Way reach its goal of eradicating poverty and supporting ALICE families.
“We are thrilled that we’re going to be able to take this half a million dollars and offer support to ALICE in Tacoma in the very near future,” Woodards said.
ALICE is an acronym for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed — in other words, households that earn more than the Federal Poverty Level, but less than the basic cost of living. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the 2020 poverty guideline was $26,200 for a family of four.
United Way data from 2016 shows 31 percent of households in Pierce County are considered ALICE.
“That means people who wake up every single day and go to work but at the end of the day don’t know if they’ll have enough money to put food on the table for their families,” said Woodards, who said she also grew up in an ALICE household.
Woodards said she hopes to leverage the donation to seek matching dollars from other organizations, and has already been approached by two foundations. No city or public dollars will be used to fund the project, she said.
City Council Explores Guaranteed Income Pilot Program
Published by the Tacoma Weekly
Dec. 9, 2020
Tacoma has become eligible to receive a grant of $100,000 to explore a guaranteed income pilot program. A guaranteed income is a monthly cash payment given directly to individuals. It is unconditional, with no strings attached and no work requirements. It is meant to supplement, rather than replace, the existing social safety net and can help foster racial and gender equity.
The move to begin this work started after Mayor Victoria Woodards joined 10 other mayors across the nation in June to sign on as a founding member of Mayors for a Guaranteed Income, a group that has since grown to 30 mayors committed to collaboratively exploring guaranteed income pilot programs in their local communities.
With approval of Resolution 40707 on Dec. 1, the Tacoma City Council has authorized acceptance of this grant funding and named United Way as the primary administrator of initial program research and design. Acceptance of this grant funding does not obligate the City of Tacoma to stand up a pilot.
"It is especially important to be a responsible steward of City dollars during this time of economic uncertainty, and I am committed to exploring options for a pilot program that would utilize no local tax dollars,” said Woodards. "During this time of economic hardship for so many, a guaranteed income program could provide immediate assistance to Tacoma families in need while gathering real-time data about a potential tool that could address poverty in an innovative, comprehensive way at the federal level going forward.”
Woodards began convening community partners in July 2020 – including United Way, Sound Outreach, Tacoma Urban League, Greater Tacoma Community Foundation, and Tacoma Housing Authority – for early discussions on what a guaranteed income pilot program could look like in Tacoma. At-Large Tacoma City Council Member Kristina Walker joined on as a champion of the initiative this fall.
"COVID-19 has brought to light how little of a safety net exists for many in our community when the unexpected strikes,” said Walker. "In cooperation with cities across the nation, data from these initial efforts could reveal the effectiveness of guaranteed income as a tool for helping those who are now struggling to survive the public health and economic impacts of the current pandemic, which has disproportionately affected Black and Brown community members. I look forward to working with the team of community leaders to design a program that works for Tacoma and leverages our public-private partnerships.”
In the United States, wealth and income inequality have reached historic highs. Nearly 40 percent of Americans cannot afford a single $400 emergency, and rising income inequality is compounded by a growing racial wealth gap. The median White worker made 28 percent more than the typical Black worker, and 35 percent more than the median Latinx worker in the last quarter of 2019. According to 2017 data released by the Federal Reserve, the median wealth of White families is $171,000 while the median wealth of Black families is less than 15 percent of White families at $17,600.
Mayors for a Guaranteed Income is an effort to realize Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s economic dream. The coalition is committed to advocacy in favor of cash-based policies and exploring guaranteed income programs. The lessons learned from local pilots across the nation will be aggregated and used to inform federal policy work.