‘We’ve seen it work’: Tacoma mayor explains why she believes in universal basic income pilot

Dec 16, 2020, 5:20 AM
Victoria Woodards, Tacoma, universal basic income...
Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards. (City of Tacoma, YouTube)
(City of Tacoma, YouTube)

Tacoma will soon have $600,000 in funding to use on a universal basic income pilot program. The city’s mayor, Victoria Woodards, explained to KIRO Radio’s Gee and Ursula why she thinks that program can work both short and long term.

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

Part of the funding for the program comes from a $500,000 donation from Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, who handed out a total of $15 million to cities across the country to fund universal basic income pilots. Another $100,000 is courtesy of the Mayors for Guaranteed Income (MGI) group.

Woodards has long pushed for a universal basic income program as one the MGI’s founding members. With funding now in hand, she points to past data from similar pilot programs as proof of how it can and will be effective in Tacoma.

“We’ve seen it work,” she noted, referring to a recent pilot program in Stockton, Calif., that yielded positive results.

That program distributed $500 in direct monthly payments to over 125 families spanning 18 months. Over that period, 43% of participants 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 hope is to follow a similar model for a pilot program in Tacoma.

“I think when people have their basic needs met, that’s when they could begin to think about how they could do them better for themselves and their families,” Mayor Woodards noted. “… It’s going to provide people with a little bit of breathing room, or at least the ability to breathe, so that they could think of, potentially, about what their next step could be.”

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“These are people who are trying to get up and go to work every day for their families and for themselves, but at night, come home and still don’t know if they have enough money to put food on the table,” she continued. “This will give us an opportunity to provide that kind of support.”

More specific details are currently still being determined, but the city already has partners on board to help develop a roadmap. Those partners include United Way of Pierce County, Greater Tacoma Community Foundation, the Urban League, Sound Outreach, and the Tacoma Housing Authority.

Woodards expects to have more details announced by March 1, 2021, including information about who would get money to start and how long the pilot would run.

Listen to the Gee and Ursula Show weekday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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‘We’ve seen it work’: Tacoma mayor explains why she believes in universal basic income pilot