Six hundred Oakland families will be part of one of the largest basic income pilot programs in the nation, Mayor Libby Schaaf announced Tuesday. Oakland Resilient Families, the name of the program, will provide $500 a month for at least 18 months to the families who can spend the money on anything they want to.
The money will go to Black, Indigenous and other people of color, also known as BIPOC. These groups have the greatest wealth disparities in Oakland. “Today begins our community engagement process,” Schaaf said at a news conference Tuesday morning.
Payments to families could begin as early as this spring after the community is informed about the program, families are screened for eligibility and selected.
Families will be selected randomly. Eligible families are those with income at or below 50 percent of the area median income, which is about $59,000 for a family of three.
Half of the spots will be reserved for very-low-income families, or those earning below 138 percent of the federal poverty level. That’s about $30,000 per year for a family of three.
Applications will be available online and people can apply regardless of whether they are a citizen or if they have housing.
“Guaranteed income is an idea that has been around a long time,” but its time has come, Schaaf said.
Oakland’s effort will not be the first in the nation. A similar program was created in Stockton.
“I am hella proud of Oakland today,” former Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs said. Oakland is among the first U.S. cities to follow Stockton’s example.
Tubbs last year originated Mayors for a Guaranteed Income, a network of mayors advocating for a guaranteed income for Americans nationwide, and Schaaf is a founding mayor. Tubbs said Stockton faced criticism over the program, with people saying for example that recipients would spend all of the money on drugs and alcohol.
But Tubbs said recipients were able to work more because they were able to pay for child care, and among other things, pay for car repairs. Recipients were healthier, too, he said.
Oakland City Councilmember Loren Taylor said he’s excited about the program, saying there are youth talented in science or the arts or another field but cannot develop those talents because they must work part-time to help support their family.
None of the money for Oakland Resilient Families will come from taxpayers. Rather it will come from Blue Meridian Partners, a philanthropic partner. Jesus Gerena, CEO of the Oakland-based Family Independence Initiative, which is a partner with the city on the project, said $6.75 million has been raised for Oakland Resilient Families. Eighty percent will go to families participating in the program. More details about the program can be found online at https://oaklandresilientfamilies.org/.