Advocates for universal basic income gather in Mountain View

Mountain View is one of a growing list of Bay Area cities ready to test out a Universal Basic Income program.

UBI aims to lift people out of poverty by guaranteeing a minimum level of income to be spent however people want.

 Advocates of the movement gathered in Mountain View Saturday afternoon for the Third Annual Basic Income March and Rally.

UBI, or GBI as it's also known, is an old idea with renewed support.

It's all about getting money directly in the hands of those who need it most to help them get out of, or avoid, living in poverty.

2020 Presidential candidate, Andrew Yang, was one of 100 or so people participating in the rally outside Mountain View’s City Hall.

As part of his campaign, he helped bring the idea of Universal Basic Income into public debate.

"So, it’s a thrill to be able to help continue the movement for basic income, which now a majority of Americans know is common sense," said Yang.

People at the rally are advocating for UBI on a federal level.  

So far, it’s only been done on a local level with pilot projects, such as in Stockton, CA.

But the idea of giving "no strings attached" money directly to targeted groups in need appears to be gaining traction.

Arun Kumar, who helped organize the rally, says he got interested in the topic after a friend made a windfall selling a tech company, but still felt a sense of dread.

"He started talking about automation and what that portends for the economy and he started going deep into how a lot of jobs are going to be replaced and human labor less necessary in a new economy," said Kumar.  

Critics argue direct payments not tied to labor leads to complacency and laziness, but advocates say data on the issue and how Americans spent covid relief money contradicts those claims.

"There have been all these fears that if you put money into someone’s hands, they’re going to do something self-destructive with it, it’s proven to be the opposite of the truth," said Yang.

Governor Gavin Newsom carved out $35 million from the state budget to help cities begin pilot programs.

State senator, Dave Cortese, who helped start a UBI program in Santa Clara County aimed at helping youth aging out of foster care says private money can also play a substantial role.

"We have foundations out there and safety net programs that are trying to reach the same people, but there’s no quicker way to reach them than to just deposit the check in their debit account and empower them to make the decisions they need to make, whether it’s to feed their families, pay their tuition, pay their rent." said Cortese.

Artist and Teacher, Kevin Dublin, is one of 130 recipients receiving $1000 a month as part of an 18-month UBI pilot program for artists in San Francisco.

The divorced dad says the money has been transformational, giving him the opportunity to raise his son.

"It’s allowed him to be able to live with me full-time and not just like over breaks and not just when school is not going on and be able to actually afford it," said Dublin.

Mountain View currently has $1 million approved and set aside for a Guaranteed Income Pilot Project and has a study session Tuesday to iron out details, like who will qualify.

Starting early next year, the goal is to get about $500 a month to about 165 families for a year, then study the pros and cons to see if the program is worth continuing.  It’s something that’s happening in more and more cities.