Year-long Tacoma universal basic income pilot program kicks off
After months of accepting applications, Tacoma’s universal basic income pilot program has officially kicked off.
Starting this week, the program will pay out $500 each month to 110 people for one year. Participants were chosen randomly with assistance from the Center for Guaranteed Income Research at the University of Pennsylvania, based on a handful of qualifying factors revolving largely around those laid out in the “ALICE” acronym: Asset-Limited, Income-Constrained, and Employed. A special focus was paid to BIPOC residents and single heads of household residents who met the ALICE criteria, with eligibility limited to residents living in the Eastside, Hilltop, and South Tacoma neighborhoods.
In total, the program — known formally as Growing Resilience in Tacoma, or GRIT — will end up running taxpayers around $100,000 to cover administrative costs, according to Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards. The bulk of GRIT’s funding, though, comes from a $500,000 donation from former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, an additional $100,000 from the Mayors for a Guaranteed Income (MGI) group, and other fundraising efforts led by local organizations.
Woodards is a founding member of the MGI, which also includes mayors from Atlanta, Los Angeles, Oakland, Pittsburgh, Seattle, Philadelphia, and more. She has long championed her belief that the program could provide a crucial outlet to meet the basic needs of struggling lower income families.
“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,” she told KIRO Radio’s Gee & Ursula Show last December. “… 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.”
A similar 18-month pilot in Stockton, Calif. — which handed out $500 direct monthly payments to over 125 families — showed that 40% of the money went to food, 25% went to sales and other merchandise, and 12% was spent on utility payments.