Tacoma mayor considers universal basic income to ‘level the playing field’

Jul 14, 2020, 12:37 PM | Updated: 12:52 pm
Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards, universal basic income...
Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards. (Facebook)

The discussion around universal basic income has heated up in recent weeks, after Stockton, Calif., opted to extend its own pilot program. In Tacoma, Mayor Victoria Woodards is looking into whether a similar system could work for her own city’s residents.

Stockton’s pilot began in 2018, when it chose a random selection of high-poverty neighborhood residents to receive monthly payments of $500 a month for 18 months. Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs opted to extend the program to January 2021, having already caught the attention of other cities.

“When this opportunity came up to look at guaranteed income, and as I started thinking about what reform looks like, this opportunity became interesting to me,” Mayor Woodards told KIRO Nights. “How do we level the playing field in Washington, Tacoma, and Pierce County?”

Woodards is part of a coalition of 10 U.S. mayors known as “Mayors for Guaranteed Income,” with the stated goal “to come together in this network to advocate for a guaranteed income — direct, recurring cash payments — that lifts all of our communities.”

Woodards admits her own city is still very much in the early stages for any such program. In the days ahead, she hopes to talk with Tacoma’s city council to begin building a roadmap to enacting its own pilot program.

“We can take what happened other cities, but we’ve got to make it right for Tacoma,” she noted.

In Stockton, roughly 43% of participants in the universal basic income pilot work full- or part-time; 11% take care of parents or children, 20% have some sort of disability, and just 2% said they weren’t looking for work. Of the $500 they receive monthly, 40% has gone toward food, 25% to sales and other merchandise, and 12% has been spent on utility payments.

The hope from Mayor Woodards is that a program like Stockton’s will 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,” she said. “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.”

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Tacoma mayor considers universal basic income to ‘level the playing field’