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Santa Fe signs on to guaranteed income program

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – The city of Santa Fe is among about 25 U.S. cities that will be experimenting with universal basic income as part of a pilot program funded through the Mayors for a Guaranteed Income project.

The initiative comes on the heels of a similarly designed program in Stockton, California, in which 125 people were provided $500 per month for two years with few strings attached. Participants were able to use the money however they wanted, without any work restrictions.

In Santa Fe, the program will be limited to 100 people under age 30 who have children and are attending Santa Fe Community College. They will each receive between $400 and $500 per month for the next year, thanks to a grant underwritten by Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey.

“We’re focusing on low-income families trying to get community college credit and trying to get families fed so they don’t have to choose between one or the other,” Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber said in a phone interview.

Webber said the program can be “life-changing” for families struggling to pay bills and to get ahead financially. He said the idea behind it is to address the vicious cycle of poverty, low education achievement and low paying jobs.

While critics have called such guaranteed income programs a return to welfare, Webber said results from the program in Stockton showed that it served to “lift up” families rather than provide them with a handout.

“It provides families with a platform and builds from that platform. I think it’s important to give it a shot,” he said, adding that a recently released assessment of the Stockton program showed that it reduced emotional stress and worked to promote people looking for better work. “As we’ve seen direct support work during COVID times, the time is right for a pilot program like this.”

An analysis of the guaranteed-income program in Stockton, which ran for two years beginning in February 2019, showed participants were twice as likely to find full-time jobs and were happier and healthier.

Webber said in addition to the $500,000 granted by the Mayors for a Guaranteed Income project, the Santa Fe Community Foundation will also provide funding from local sources. He said the idea is to extend the program to two years, as it takes that long to earn a certificate or degree at SFCC.

SFCC President Becky Rowley said the school is excited to be a part of the program.

“We know that lack of financial resources keeps our students from persisting in college and completing their degrees,” she said in a statement. “This program will provide financial resources that allows students to achieve their goals.”

The Santa Fe program will set aside 15 of the 100 spots for students in the health science cohort through Expanding Opportunity for Young Families, an initiative of the Santa Fe Community Foundation.

“We know this guaranteed income will help the student-parents in our health science cohort cover both academic and non-academic expenses like rent and child care, making on-time college completion more feasible and increasing economic security for their children,” said Rachel Kutcher of the community foundation.

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