Universal Basic Income Could Be the New Stimulus Check
As states and cities across the country prepare to use tax surplus money to issue direct payments to residents as part of an effort to combat the impact of inflation, one city is gearing up to test out a Universal Basic Income scheme for young parents.
Baltimore, Maryland, is preparing to hand out $1,000 checks to 200 young parents this summer, with no strings attached.
The lucky recipients will be free to spend the money however they please, and Democratic Mayor Brandon Scott said the move was necessary for many young families in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“When you are a city that has the deep health disparities that we have here in Baltimore — and you know that a lot of that is driven from the stress of not being able to provide for your family, not being to afford healthier options and food — we would be doing this the incorrect way if we weren’t thinking about this from a health and mental health perspective,” the mayor said.
Mayor Scott also cited the “deep health disparities” in the city as a reason for initiating the scheme, and said that many families are also struggling to afford healthy food. Among the other reasons for the scheme, according to the mayor, were high eviction rates, and young families struggling to spend enough time with one another as a result of working long hours.
The pilot scheme is a collaboration between the CASH Campaign of Maryland, Mayors for a Guaranteed Income, Steady, and the City of Baltimore. A total of $4.8 million was set aside from the American Rescue Plan Act to pay for the scheme, and it will also receive support from several other philanthropic donors and charitable organizations.
The UBI scheme is effectively a test run for the city to see whether giving greater financial stability to the lowest earners will solve some of the region’s troubles. Only 200 young parents will be eligible for the scheme this summer, and applications ended on May 9.
Parents between the ages of 18 and 24 were eligible to apply, as long as they live in Baltimore City and have incomes at 300% or less of the federal poverty level. That means a family of three would need to earn $69,090 to qualify for the additional income.
How Long Is It For?
The success of the scheme will be determined over the next24 months, with politicians likely to consider the impact it had on those 200 young parents’ lives, the impact on the community overall, and the cost to the public purse.
The scheme is not unique. Several UBI trials have been held in the United States, Canada, and Europe in recent years – most of which ended in failure. However, with progressive Democrats in Congress pushing for the idea in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and as prices continue to rapidly rise, Baltimore’s scheme may prove to be a turning point.
Jack Buckby is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.