An expert on economic policy and entitlement programs admits she's a fan of pilot programs at the local level – but advises city officials to first examine why existing programs aren't working before implementing new ones.
A program launching in Compton, California aims to guarantee free, recurring cash payments over a two-year period to hundreds of low-income residents. The so-called "Compton Pledge" is led by Democratic Mayor Aja Brown, along with the Fund for Guaranteed Income, the nonprofit research organization Jain Family Institute, and others.
"People in our community are going through tough times, and I know that guaranteed income could give people a moment to navigate their situation, and have some breathing room to go back to school, explore a new career path, spend time with their children, or improve their mental and emotional wellbeing," said Mayor Brown in a statement.
Brown added that she knows firsthand what a guaranteed income could have done for her mother.
"I've watched the many sacrifices she made, including walking to work to provide for my brother and I," said Brown. "Like most Americans, we were one emergency away from having to move, which we did many times, if anything unplanned happened because of her restricted income and prioritizing being present for her children."
OneNewsNow sought reaction from the director of policy at the non-profit Independent Women's Forum, Hadley Heath Manning.
"I look at these statements from politicians sometimes and it raises the question: If people in the community are struggling and we have safety net programs in place to provide for basic needs like housing, food, water, and childcare – what's not working about those existing programs?" Manning asks.
"Do those programs deserve a second look in terms of reforms to make them better or make them better suited for this moment when people are facing a new circumstance with the pandemic?"
That's not to say Manning doesn't find the idea of a universal basic income interesting. "But that's adding another layer to our existing safety nets rather than focusing on what's wrong [or identifying] the holes in the current program," she shares.
Manning, who comments regularly on government entitlement programs, adds that something such as a universal basic income provides a disincentive to work.
A spokesperson from one of the organizations partnering with the program told CNN that they have not determined the exact amount of cash payments "beyond the range of a few hundred dollars." Meanwhile, recipients will be "pre-verified" and the Compton Pledge will be available for "irregularly or informally employed residents, immigrants of varied legal status, and the formerly incarcerated."
This is not the first program of its kind in California. The city of Stockton was part of a program that gave some residents in that city $500 a month for 18 months.
"I'm always happy to see pilot programs at the local level," says Manning. "That gives us an opportunity to experiment and see evidence and understand what's good about a policy idea and what's bad about a policy idea."