How's Tacoma's guaranteed basic income program going?
The rising cost of everyday goods and the end of several pandemic programs like the expanded Child Tax Credit has put millions of families across the country in a financially precarious position.
The Child Tax Credit is a form of universal basic income: a government program in which qualifying adults receive regular payments; recipients can choose how to best spend that money.
The extra cash made a big difference for Soundside listener Serena in West Seattle.
"I have three children, and it's a big challenge to keep everyone dressed and fed and school picture-d," Serena said. "The Child Tax Credit made the difference between playing bill roulette, which is, 'Which bill can I pay this month? And which one can I put off?'"
A basic income can be created at the national or even local level. Here in Washington, Tacoma is piloting its own guaranteed income initiative. It's called GRIT, an acronym for "Growing Resilience in Tacoma."
Since December 2021, 110 families experiencing poverty in Tacoma have received $500 a month to spend as they need. There are no strings attached, and no work requirements.
The pilot program is part of a larger study being conducted by the University of Pennsylvania's Center for Guaranteed Income Research. A report on Tacoma's pilot program isn't due until 2024, but Abigail Lawson, the director of GRIT, says they're already hearing anecdotally from participants about the benefit of the program.
"Across the board, a lot of what we're seeing funding go to is as simple as bills," Lawson said. "We have families that are using it for tutoring."
Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards says it's too soon to tell the future of the guaranteed basic income program in Tacoma. But she hopes Tacoma's experience, and other cities', will lead to a national push for a guaranteed income.
"Being able to take the emotion out of it, and truly show the data about the effects of this kind of income can have, that's when we're really going to get to drive real policy change," Woodards said.
You can listen to the full interview above. And if you want to find out more about GRIT, you can find more information on United Way of Pierce County's website.