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Universal Basic Income has been a ‘lifesaver’ to families during coronavirus pandemic: California mayor

Kristin Myers
·3 min read

Universal basic income (UBI) has been a “lifesaver” for households participating in UBI pilot programs, Mayor Michael Tubbs told Yahoo Finance.

The Stockton, Calif. mayor is the founder of Mayors for a Guaranteed Income, a program that provides $500 a month to families in dozens of cities around the United States and was originally slated to end in July. The program recently received a sizable boost after Twitter (TWTR) CEO Jack Dorsey donated $15 million to the initiative.

“People have told us that the $500 has made it so that they're able to have enough food in their home since their kids are home all day,” Tubbs explained.“Another lady told us that the $500 was a lifesaver because while she qualified for unemployment insurance after she was laid off, it took three months for that check to arrive.”

Tubbs said the stories from families had made him such an “evangelist,” not just for the pilot program, but for UBI as a national economic policy.

“I've seen how it's been a matter of economic life or death for so many of my constituents who did not create COVID-19, who did not ask to be laid off from their job, who did not ask for their hours to be cut and just need a little bit of help to do what's necessary to stay healthy,” he said.

FILE -- In this Wednesday Aug. 14, 2019, file photo Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs talks during an interview in Stockton, Calif.  Tubbs is one of the youngest mayors in the country and was the city’s first Black mayor. He garnered national attention with his universal basic income program that fights poverty by paying people $500 a month. But despite winning 70% of the vote, Tubbs is trailing a Republican challenger, putting him in danger of losing his seat.  (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)
FILE -- In this Wednesday Aug. 14, 2019, file photo Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs talks during an interview in Stockton, Calif. Tubbs is one of the youngest mayors in the country and was the city’s first Black mayor. He garnered national attention with his universal basic income program that fights poverty by paying people $500 a month. But despite winning 70% of the vote, Tubbs is trailing a Republican challenger, putting him in danger of losing his seat. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

“With Jack Dorsey's donation, we're going to be able to pilot a guaranteed income in up to 30 cities in this country next year,” Tubbs said. “While we're thankful for Jack's donation, it's also just a striking indictment on Senate Majority Leader McConnell and the Republican-led Senate that we're having to talk to tech CEOs, their generosity, to do what's necessary to provide for some of the basic necessities of our constituents in terms of being able to afford food, afford rent, and afford to stay home when they're told to quarantine for 10 days or for 14 days.”

Hope in the new administration

“We saw what happened with the $1,200 stimulus checks. First of all, everybody was happy. No one was upset. It was politically great for everyone,” Tubbs said. “Poverty dropped just with one $1,200 check.”

The mayor said he was “excited” to spread the program, but that the excitement was also coupled with frustration and sadness that he hasn’t “seen the energy about an actual policy to make sure that all people have what they need to survive during this pandemic.”

UBI is a controversial economic policy that was vaulted to the national spotlight during the 2020 election cycle when presidential candidate Andrew Yang made guaranteed income a part of his presidential platform.

And with a new administration, Tubbs is hopeful that the UBI pilot program can be “expanded to a national policy.

“I think with this Biden-Harris administration and their commitment to build back better and provided we get to win these seats in Georgia so we have a Senate majority, I think we'll see some sort of stimulus that meets the moment in terms of meeting Americans where they are and providing them a monthly disbursement, at least throughout this pandemic,” he said. “So that's my hope, not just because it's a cool policy but it's literally a necessity.”

Kristin Myers is a reporter and anchor for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter.

Follow Yahoo Finance on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Flipboard, SmartNews, LinkedIn, YouTube, and reddit.

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