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Mayor Woodards on how Tacoma's guaranteed income pilot gives new meaning to 'grit'

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For 150 years, Tacoma has been called the "City of Destiny." It's also been referred to as "Grit City." That sense of being tough and resolute is reflected in the city's new pilot program, Growing Resilience in Tacoma. It's an experiment in how a guaranteed supplementary income might stabilize the lives of low-income citizens.

Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards announced the GRIT initiative earlier this week. She told KUOW’s Paige Browning about the program.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

Paige Browning: In this program a group of 100 applicants, heads of households with lower incomes, will receive $500 a month for a year. How can they spend that money?

Mayor Woodards: Any way they want to. That's what's exciting about this demonstration. The $500 will supplement income in a way that those who are receiving it need their income to be supplemented. We know from the pilot that was done in Stockton, California, most people spent their money on basic needs like food, and childcare and rent.

We know that 40% of households before Covid did not have enough money to handle a basic emergency. This will give them the opportunity to be able to do that.

How is the GRIT program funded?

This program is being funded through a partnership. We are part of the founding members of the national organization Mayor's for a Guaranteed Income. Because we're founding members, we have received two grants. One for $100,000 is to do some administrative work to see if a pilot would work in Tacoma. Then we got an additional grant for $500,000 for cash disbursements.

Our goal is to raise the rest of the money so that we can make sure that we have enough money for disbursements, and for the administrative costs of running the program.

You said that you think the city of Tacoma has “a responsibility to make sure everyone has what they need to be successful, and to support those who need it most.” This seems like a lofty goal. Do you have a vision to make good on this responsibility?

All goals should be lofty. You’ve got to take the first step to get to the goal. I think this is our first step. Helping 100 families at $500 a month sounds small in a city that has 215,000-plus residents, but it's a step. I think that's what we have to take. This really has the potential to really change lives. If we can help 100 people this year, and 100 people next year, it's in small increments, but it does make a difference.

You know, they say that rising tides float all boats. If we can help the most vulnerable citizens be successful and achieve that goal, then we can lift our entire community. That's what this demonstration has the opportunity to do.

Link to GRIT application

The deadline to apply for the project is this coming Monday, August 16 at midnight. Qualified individuals must be Tacoma residents and single heads of household with children under 18 years old. Mayor Woodards told us that 11,000 Tacomans fit the criteria for the program.

Listen to the interview by clicking the play button above.

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