Council OK’s Universal Basic Income Program

Courtesy photo
Courtesy photo

Council OK’s Universal Basic Income Program

At its Nov. 15 meeting, the City Council authorized the City Manager to execute two contracts to administer the Guaranteed Basic Income (GBI) Pilot Program, which will distribute some of the city’s federally allocated American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to selected low-income households.

In particular, 150 Alameda households will receive $1,000 per month over a two-year span. The decision to move forward with this program follows a May 2022 meeting in which the council voted 3-2 to approve the exploration of the GBI pilot (“City Council Approves Guaranteed Basic Income Pilot Program,” May 26; https://alamedasun.com/news/city-council-approves-guaranteed-basic-incom...).

City staff spent the months since learning about other GBI programs in cities like Oakland and Long Beach, as well as meeting with Bay Area communities of practice and community stakeholders to inform the program design.

During the meeting, Alameda Development Managers Eric Fonstein and Walker Toma presented the chosen implementation (Operation Dignity) and research (ABT Associates) partners, which were selected via an extensive Request for Proposals (RFP) process begun in August (“City Seeks Partners for Guaranteed Basic Income Pilot Program,” Aug. 25; https://alamedasun.com/news/city-seeks-partners-guaranteed-basic-income-...).

Their presentation drew a spirited discussion among councilmembers along with public comments that reflected the views of the divided council. Several people who affiliated themselves with the advocacy coalition Transform Alameda expressed their strong support for this initiative.

Other members of the public echoed councilmembers Trish Herrera Spencer and Tony Daysog’s concerns about the efficiency of the pilot. Specifically, noting that the pilot will only serve approximately 10 percent of eligible households. Herrera Spencer and Daysog believe that public dollars would be better spent on services like mental health that would reach a broader group of people.

Daysog, Herrera Spencer and several community members also voiced concerns about the amount of money allocated for the research and administration of the GBI pilot.

In response, Mayor Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft said, “The data that we are generating will be used as a benchmark and shared with other programs. The idea and hope is that it will lead to some permanent funding streams from state level and maybe federal.”

This agenda item was approved by a vote of 3-2, with councilmembers Daysog and Spencer continuing to oppose the pilot. With its passage, city staff will start working with Operation Dignity and a community advisory board to develop aspects of the pilot such as eligibility criteria and benefit waivers with plans to launch it Spring or Summer 2023.

Ben Wiley is an Alameda Sun contributor. To reach Wiley, contact editor@alamedasun.com.