Oakland mayor supports guaranteed income to lift people out of extreme poverty

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf has joined 10 other mayors across the country in support of a guaranteed income to lift people out of extreme poverty. 

The city of Stockton under Mayor Michael Tubbs was one of the first to try a Universal Basic Income. Data from a study on that initiative found that people who were given an extra $500 a month, spent the money on basic needs, such as food and clothing. 

The mayor's who support the guaranteed income say it would ease income inequality, particularly in communities of color. 

Mayor Schaaf joined KTVU's The Four to share her thoughts on the concept. 

"Let's give credit where credit is due, Martin Luther King Jr. introduced this idea of guaranteed income more than 50 years ago," Schaaf said. 

Schaaf said in light of protests surrounding racial injustice, income inequality and with the pandemic highlighting the economy's fragility, this is the type of transformative program that is needed right now.

"The idea is simple, that people under a certain income need to have a guaranteed income. This is not to eliminate the safety net," said Schaaf. 

The mayor said the pilot program would cut through bureaucratic red tape. 

"We know that 40% of Americans can't even weather a $400 economic crisis. That is not right. The disparities in wealth particularly between white and Black Americans is unconscionable," Schaaf said. 

The mayor said a guaranteed income is effective and cost efficient. The mayors from the 11 cities, including Los Angeles and Atlanta will implement a pilot program to advocate for statewide and eventually national policy. 

Schaaf pointed out that many people don't get all of their income from an employment relationship, which unemployment insurance is designed to address.

"This is something that is particularly needed in today's climate," Schaaf said, adding that it would help address income inequality. "We believe that this is a cushion that will actually allow people to undo the unfair economic systems that we have had in place for so long."