Former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang made his first appearance as a New York City mayoral candidate on Thursday, proposing a basic income program for the city’s poorest.
“We will launch the largest basic income program in the history of the country,” Yang stated. “We will lift hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers out of extreme poverty, putting cash relief directly into the hands of the families who desperately need help right now.”
Yang’s plan, a modified version of his national universal basic income (UBI) proposal, would involve providing roughly 500,000 New Yorkers “who are living in extreme poverty with an average of $2,000 per year.”
The campaign added that program would grow over time "as it receives more funding from public and philanthropic organizations." Unlike a national plan, however, the local plan would need to be part of a balanced budget.
“At the local level, where budgets are constrained, you can’t run budget deficits, the question is, what does Yang plan to cut?” Dean Baker, chief economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, told Yahoo Money. “If New York City wants to spend a couple of billion dollars a year on the universal basic income, it has to cut other spending or raise taxes on the rich.”
All New Yorkers would be eligible for the payments regardless of immigration status or whether they’ve been incarcerated. The direct relief would be supplementary to other benefits people receive so SNAP, TANF, Medicaid, and housing assistance recipients “would have no interruption to these benefits,” according to Yang’s campaign website.
“There will of course be expenses associated with getting the money out which given those numbers doesn't seem like he's included them,” Baker noted. “This isn’t going to be an easy task where you can just say ‘we got the 500,000 lowest income people’ and send them a check.”
‘Our federal government sent $1,200 to tens of millions of Americans’
With the distribution of two rounds of direct payments in the last nine months and the potential of a third one coming in 2021, direct payments to Americans have become a popular bipartisan option.
“Two years ago, no one would have thought that Congress would ever directly send tens of millions of Americans around the country money with no strings attached,” Yang said at the event. “But last year our federal government sent $1,200 to tens of millions of Americans and helped stabilize families and the economy.”
President Donald Trump, who has been a proponent of stimulus checks throughout the pandemic, held the latest $900 billion stimulus deal for three days demanding an increase of the amount of the stimulus checks from $600 to $2,000. President-elect Biden has also supported the payments promising “that money would go out the door immediately.”
Baker noted that the support for direct payments is still high among lawmakers from both sides of the aisle because the economy continues to recover from a historic pandemic and resulting recession.
“These are extraordinary times, you could justify extraordinary measures,” he said. “There was very much an attitude ‘We don't care about the budget deficit’ which in this context was certainly appropriate but we're not always going to be in that context.”