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Posts Tagged ‘basic income’

Photo: Ann Hermes/Christian Science Monitor.
Shoppers in Chelsea, Mass., have benefited from cash payments during the pandemic.

How many years have we kicked around the idea of a guaranteed income to eliminate poverty? If you search at this blog on the topic, you will see several forms the concept has taken in the past. And since COVID-19 became part of our lives, the feeling of urgency around Universal Basic Income (UBI) has grown.

At the Christian Science Monitor, Simon Montlake as a report on Chelsea, Massachusetts.

“Inside the hillside church where she works part time as custodian, Ana Vanegas-Rivera rests on a wooden bench and pulls out her phone wallet. She holds up a blue debit card, similar to the others in her wallet, minus her name or any issuing bank. 

“The card belongs to Chelsea, a blue-collar city outside Boston that is using it to give cash to around 2,000 low-income residents during a pandemic that has disproportionately hit its Latino-majority population. Every month the card is reloaded with between $200 and $400, depending on family size, allowing recipients to spend the money as they see fit. 

“Ms. Vanegas-Rivera’s $400 goes toward buying food, household items, school supplies, and shoes for Dylan, her third grade son. For now, the family is getting by on her modest custodian salary and disability checks, along with what her husband earns from sporadic construction jobs, so every extra dollar counts.

“ ‘It has been a big help. I’m very happy that we have this opportunity,’ she says. 

“The pilot income program, which began in November and runs until May, has been underwritten by federal and state COVID-19 relief dollars, as well as private donations, and is geared to feeding families, as its name, Chelsea Eats, suggests. ‘Our overriding goal is to get people through the spring,’ says Tom Ambrosino, the city manager. ‘For some of our families that is the only money they have.’ 

“Chelsea is also a national testbed for a simple idea: to help people by giving them money. Not a housing voucher, not food stamps, but a cash-equivalent payment that ensures recipients have a basic income that they can spend any way they want. The rationale is that people know best what they need, and letting them make decisions on how to use the money, without restrictions, is direct and empowering, and doesn’t require a big bureaucracy to implement.

“Chelsea is one of several U.S. cities experimenting with unconditional cash transfers to help some residents quickly – an idea that could become the basis for an alternative to traditional welfare and other safety net programs that have existed for decades. Indeed, advocates see these cash experiments as a building block toward a federal guarantee of a basic income for all, or at least all who manifestly need it. 

“The idea of a universal basic income that would fill in some of the crevasses in capitalist economies isn’t new. … But UBI has always been a provocative notion that seemed just a little too provocative, an unfathomable expense – free money for all – that nobody would want to pay. That was before the pandemic.

Once economies started closing down, governments around the world began to dig deep and spend freely, putting cash directly in people’s hands. …

“Most U.S. social assistance is modest and conditioned on certain requirements, such as work and family size. Except for older adults or people with disabilities, it rarely arrives in the form of cash. This reflects an ethos of self-reliance, as well as decades of conservative criticism that welfare is wasteful and breeds dependence. Backers of basic income believe these traditional assistance programs no longer work. 

“Yet the politics of governments handing out cash remains complicated. Many liberals like UBI but some don’t. Many conservatives don’t like UBI but some do. 

“For now, momentum is building for at least some form of basic income in the face of a lopsided economy that seems to generate more losers than winners, even before the pandemic. But the question is: How far will the idea go? …

“In Chelsea, Mr. Ambrosino doesn’t really focus much on whether the idea of a basic income is gaining ascendancy in Washington or not. His priority is simply to help families in a tough spot, and he’s happy with what he’s seeing so far with Chelsea Eats. ‘We’re getting money in the right hands,’ he says. 

“Roseann Bongiovanni, a former city councilor and now executive director of GreenRoots, a local nonprofit, agrees that the extra money is helping families. But Chelsea faces challenges of housing affordability and environmental justice, and overall demand at food pantries hasn’t gone away. ‘This is a short-term fix,’ she says. ‘It’s not resolving a larger structural issue.’ 

“Ms. Vanegas-Rivera knows that her debit card is temporary. Though she owes less on her credit cards and is managing better, her money problems haven’t gone away. What has changed, she says, is that she and her husband are no longer lining up daily at food pantries.” 

More here.

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Photo: PD Rearick.
Sarah Rose Sharp’s “Avolare A Alveare (Fly Away from the Hive),” 2016, wool, salvage quilt fragment, found embroidery, printed cotton, iron-on letters, silk, hem binding.

You and your friends have probably already speculated about how many lockdown adaptations will survive the pandemic. Working from home, FaceTime and Zoom calls with distant family, increased handwashing and awareness of aerosols, paying for entertainment online, etc.

In today’s article, an artist praises the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits to freelancers and imagines a world in which basic income could provide a kind of at-home residency for creatives.

Sarah Rose Sharp writes at Hyperallergic that government payments allowed her to create without worry about money during the pandemic.

She says, “One of the basic truisms of freelancing is: You can have time, or you can have resources, but you will almost never have both simultaneously. A foundational lesson of this workflow is doing the work when it’s available and saving as much as possible for the slow times. But its counterpart is this: When times are slow, that’s the opportunity to do your own (uncompensated) thing, and you should not waste this time wallowing in anxiety about the next paid gig.

“I truly never expected the government to identify freelancers as a vulnerable population needing to be covered by unemployment. Mostly 1099 workers pay disproportionately into public benefit systems without being able to access them. Imagine my complete surprise when I discovered that freelancers were being offered unprecedented unemployment benefits through Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. In other words: every 1099 worker is being offered a paid artist residency. …

“In pre-pandemic times, artists competed tooth and nail for residency opportunities. Even when you get them, they tend to conceal sunken costs, such as requiring travel away from your life and home, thus necessitating use of resources you’re granted just to maintain your permanent homestead. You may have to pay to board pets. You may have to ship supplies or buy new ones when you get to New Hampshire or Maine or Houston or a tiny remote island and realize you left the perfect thing back in your studio.

“There are arguably many benefits of destination residencies, from offering new social connections, to providing bucolic surroundings, to the stimulation of a change of scene, but

In my experience, the best conditions for making art involve getting paid to make art where I’ve already built the infrastructure that enables me to make art.

“Since March of 2020, that’s what I’ve done, and it’s been a productive year.

“And it’s a terrific moment to have creative people collectively on paid residency, because this past year has otherwise been hell, with many of the things that inform and structure quotidian existence shaken to their foundations. Because artists make meaning out of chaos the pre-COVID world that others inhabited so effortlessly didn’t actually make all that much sense to us to begin with. During this time I find myself and other creative people asking a lot of questions about how necessary nine-to-five workdays were in the first place (or conversely, understanding how utterly crucial and underpaid teachers are), and dreaming about new ways we might approach what is to come — ways that centralize, value, and hold people when our labels peel back or entirely fall away.

“The work I’ve seen artists doing this year in lockdown, the solace and continuity the creative community has offered to a population scared, grieving, uncertain, and bored, the ways people have found a way to stay connected through distance, difficulty, and estrangement from social norms — all of these are testaments to the creative spirit. And on a policy level, they also make a strong case for Universal Basic Income. [Read three of Suzanne’s Mom’s posts on that concept here, here, and here.]

“I haven’t seen anyone working less, I’ve just seen them directing their efforts into things that feel meaningful, instead of clock punching.

“The French philosopher Blaise Pascal wrote: ‘All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.’ While this year has made it clear that some of humanity’s problems stem from bats, it’s definitely given some of us the opportunity to attempt to live in the solution to our other problems — which is to say, there are worse things we could practice than sitting quietly in a room alone. There are lots of things that I will never see in the same way again, but personally, I no longer see the artist residency as an away-game activity, but one to be cultivated as thoroughly as possible on the home field.”

Pascal’s words are worth thinking about. As Maria Popova at Brain Pickings likes to remind us (quoting Ruth Krauss), “Everybody should be quiet near a little stream and listen.”

More at Hyperallergic, here.

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Photo: Getty Images
Michael Stubbs, mayor of Stockton, California, is following through on fresh ideas, including college scholarships for high school graduates and a pilot program on basic income.

The 20-something mayor of Stockton, California, is determined to try things to benefit residents that older heads have shied away from. He’s a good example of how being young and not knowing what’s impossible can lead to success.

Tonja Renée Stidhum writes at Blavity, “Michael Tubbs made history by becoming Stockton, California’s first African American mayor, and youngest mayor ever to serve a city with a population of over 100,000 people. The 27-year-old, who recently launched an initiative to provide basic income to help Stockton residents maintain a stable living, has now announced a plan to help his city’s students afford college, and that the initiative has received a $20 million grant.

“In a press release sent to Blavity, the mayor’s office outlined Tubbs’ new ‘Stockton Scholars‘ initiative, which will provide all graduates from Stockton Unified School District with college scholarships. Students heading to four-year institutions will receive $4,000 ($1,000 per year) and those going to two-year schools will receive $1,000 ($500 a year). The program will begin in 2019. …

“Mayor Tubbs said, ‘The tallest building in Stockton is also our newest – a courthouse, which cost $300 million to build. Surely, we can raise just one-third that amount to drive our youth towards a better future.’

“The money from the $20 million grant will last for ten years — however, raising an additional $80 million will allow the program to be sustained indefinitely, and will allow the city of Stockton to offer the scholarship not just to students of the Unified School District, but all of the city’s students. …

“Lange Luntao, a Unified School District school board member said. ‘This community refuses to allow our past to dictate our future.’ ” More here.

Curious about the basic-income experiment? Vibe reports, “Announced in October 2017 with the assistance of Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes and others, the Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration (SEED) will provide 100 people of different income levels with $500 a month for three years.”

I wrote about basic-income initiatives in Finland and Kenya, here.

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