City Council Approves Guaranteed Basic Income Pilot Program

City Council Approves Guaranteed Basic Income Pilot Program

At its May 17 meeting, the City Council approved a pilot program that will give 150 low-income households in Alameda monthly payments of $1,000 for 24 months, starting in spring of 2023.

The Guaranteed Basic Income (GBI) Pilot Program was approved by City Council with a 3-2 vote. Councilmembers Tony Daysog and Trish Herrera Spencer voted against the plan. The city will appropriate $4.6 million dollars from the American Rescue Plan Act 2021 to finance the program. Alameda received $28.68 million of the pandemic-relief money in 2021.

Staff will begin deciding who the city will partner with to administer the program. Staff anticipates spending three to four months identifying program partners. The implementing partner will likely a nonprofit with existing ties to the target community.

Staff recommended the city work with Mayors for a Guaranteed Income (MGI) to engage with the University of Pennsylvania Center for Guaranteed Income Research (CGIR) as a research partner to help staff secure exemptions from the state for benefit programs.

MGI is a network of mayors advocating for a guaranteed income to ensure that all Americans have an income floor. The CGIR is an applied research center specializing in cash-transfer research, evaluation, pilot design, and narrative change. They provide mixed-methods expertise in designing and executing empirical guaranteed income studies.

The research partners will conduct the selection process.

One of the issues that remains to be resolved is who will qualify for the program. Staff did not have a confirmed definition of what constitutes as low-income. One staff member gave a preliminary definition as households making less than $75,000 in total household income. The staff member said about 11,000 Alameda households fall under this threshold.

Councilmember John Knox White supported the program.

“We want this to be a pilot, not in that it’s just a short term…we want this to actually add to the volume of knowledge that is being collected and developed across the country,” Knox White said at the council meeting.

Daysog was against the plan.

“I don’t think it’s appropriate for any city to be throwing $4.6 million dollars at a limited handful of just 150 households,” said Daysog. “I don’t think this is proper for this City Hall to do.”

Guaranteed basic income has steadily gained popularity over the last few years. Unlike universal basic income, guaranteed basic income targets a specific group that meets certain criteria. Similar programs have recently begun in Stockton, Oakland and San Francisco.

The implementing partners will develop program structure, including program administration, distribution mechanisms for payments to participants, benefits communication plan and more.