Image by: Economic Security Project, GBI Recipients Roundtable

Guaranteed Basic Income (GBI) is a form of financial support for individuals and families that provides recurring direct cash transfers, with no strings attached, to targeted groups of people. Instead of providing cash to an entire population, like Universal Basic Income programs, GBI provides financial assistance to individuals and families who need it most. As a result, GBI programs can help address issues of economic instability that also affect health, education, and overall well-being.

On September 28, 2022, CHC attended the first of its kind Guaranteed Income Now conference in Atlanta, Georgia hosted by the Economic Security Project, which is one of the co-convening organizations of the Guaranteed Income Community of Practice. The conference brough together a variety of stakeholders who are actively working together to make Guaranteed Income a reality across the country. As of September 2022, there are more than 100 GBI pilots in the United States that are planned, in progress, or have concluded. California has seen over 20 different GBI pilots that target different populations, you can find and compare GBI projects near you in Stanford’s Basic Income Lab Map of Universal Basic Income Experiments and Related Programs.

People across the country are advocating for a Guaranteed Income because they believe, we believe, that people should have economic rights that allow them to afford to see a doctor when they are sick, to have a job, and to have a living wage. Unfortunately, in many cities across the country people are struggling to meet their basic needs. We do not have to travel far to see how applicable one of the themes that emerged at the conference is to South LA. The Tale of Two Cities highlights the disparities in poverty and inequality between different neighborhoods in America’s largest cities. Los Angeles is known for the glamor of Hollywood and its beautiful beaches, but many people are unaware of the
struggles that our communities must grapple with to make ends meet, every month.

Keynote speaker, Dr. Bernice King reminded us that in 1967, Martin Luther King, Jr. called for an annual guaranteed income in his speech, “Where Do We Go From Here?” MLK argued that the federal government spent $55 billion on the Vietnam War and space exploration to the moon, but it did not support a guaranteed income that at the time would have cost $20 billion. The federal government has funding to support programs, like GBI, however we must examine how that money is used in order to make GBI a reality today. Dr. King recalled the inseparable twins of racial and economic justice that her father frequently discussed. Racial justice in America cannot be achieved without economic justice. We must work to tackle the economic injustices that often cause people of color to be underpaid and subject to predatory lending practices. The conference emphasized that a guaranteed basic income approach can help alleviate poverty. We need more policies, like GBI and the child tax credit, that focus on helping people during economic downturns and lift families closer to the middle class.

The Guaranteed Income movement also emphasizes that having a basic income floor gives families and individuals the ability to make choices about what works best for them and their families. Critics of guaranteed income argue that cash payments will disincentivize people from work and assume that the funds will be used for the wrong things. However, significant data from a variety of pilots shows that direct cash transfers are used for essential things. Tomas Vargas, a Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration recipient, shared how time is an asset that many low-income individuals do not have; and receiving a guaranteed income allowed him the opportunity to spend more time with his kids.
Vernelle Cheneau, a young recipient of Youth Force NOLA, shared how $50 a month allowed him to start his own LLC at age 18 and he learned how to buy stocks. He said, “You don’t know how to use money, if you don’t have it.” It’s a fact that many public schools do not teach financial literacy as part of their curriculum. A guaranteed basic income is about allowing individuals to make the best choices for their families.

Community Health Councils supports the movement for a Guaranteed Income and, in fact, will launch its own program in early 2023. The goal of our GBI pilot program is to mitigate economic barriers and increase wealth-building strategies, through an ecosystem model, for mothers and their children in South Los Angeles.

You can watch a portion of the Guaranteed Income Now Conference here.