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Oakland’s Guaranteed Income Pilot Program Receives Anonymous $1 Million Gift To Continue Until June

Oakland ( Photo: New York Post )

A guaranteed income experiment piloted in Oakland, California, providing no-strings-attached $500 monthly payments for 18 months to 300 low-income families, was aimed at improving economic security and combating poverty in underserved communities.


Oakland ( Photo: KQED )

The initiative was implemented by UpTogether, a non-profit organization, and was partly funded by private philanthropy in Oakland

While the program was successful in helping some participants pay bills and improve their lives, it also highlighted some systemic issues in the United States, especially in relation to inequality and poverty. However, despite its achievements, the program also raised questions about its scalability, long-term impact, and how it can be replicated on a larger scale.

The initiative was modeled after a similar pilot program in Stockton and was funded by private philanthropy. One participant, Terran Johnson, found the payments a saving grace when he fell behind on rent after losing his job. The Oakland Resilient Families pilot was extended until June 2023 due to a $1m anonymous donation received by UpTogether.

However, Oakland does not have the funds to implement a similar program that can reach more low-income residents.

UpTogether CEO Jesús Gerena stated that legislation could inspire guaranteed income programs and that expanding tax credits for low-income families could have a similar impact, using the increase of the federal child tax credit in 2021 as a model. Gerena and Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf believe that guaranteed income programs can help right historical wrongs and can help redistribute wealth to communities that have been systematically disinvested and faced barriers to wealth-building.

While researchers from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the University of Pennsylvania are studying various aspects of the program, the exact impact of the Oakland pilot on the households and neighborhoods it served is not yet clear.

People are using the guaranteed income for basic needs

Dr. Kalen Flynn, a research scientist for the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Guaranteed Income Research, said the center is studying the program in Oakland, and a report assessing the impact of Stockton’s now-defunct guaranteed income initiative was released in the Journal of Urban Health. The center studies local government-sponsored programs to bridge the gender and racial wealth gap and the effects of stipends.

One participant, Karina, a single mother of three who works as a nanny, said her family used the cash on essential items like shoes and clothes. The program has significantly impacted her family, though it is not enough to support higher costs like tuition for her children, and she would like to see it expanded throughout the city.

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