Milwaukee could soon have a basic income demonstration program for 50 families.
Jeramey Jannene | Nov 4, 2019
Topic category: Pilots & Experiments
Basic Income Today
Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Milwaukee City Hall.

Milwaukee could soon have a universal basic income pilot program for 50 families.

Under a budget amendment sponsored by council members Chantia Lewis and Nik Kovac, the city would allocate $100,000 to establish a program to provide direct cash payments to up to 50 families.

“This model is based off of the Stockton, California model,” said Lewis of a privately-funded program for 125 families which started earlier this year. The Stockton program, known as Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration (SEED), is open to residents living in neighborhoods where the average income is below the citywide average. It provides $500 per month.

“This is not a welfare model. This is a universal basic income model,” said Lewis when the budget amendment was before the Finance & Personnel Committee. “People spent this money on housing, utilities, food — they’re not frivolously spending these dollars.”

“It’s a bold idea. I get it. But it’s time we reinvest in our people,” said Lewis. The alderwoman said cities are uniquely positioned to experiment with ideas like a universal basic income. She said she was inspired to introduce the proposal after hearing criticism regarding government inaction from residents at the council’s 2020 budget hearing.

“I have no objection to look at this idea, but using property tax dollars is something I don’t support,” said Alderman Michael Murphy. “We’re basically taxing the poor to help the poor.”

The amendment would be funded by reducing the Milwaukee Police Department‘s computer replacement fund by $100,000. The department had budgeted $274,800 for replacement in 2020.

The amendment passed the Finance & Personnel Committee on a 4 to 1 vote with Murphy opposed. It will next go before the full Common Council. It is one of 95 amendments being considered by the council.

Jeramey Jannene |Oct 31, 2019
Tags: ​Milwaukee, universal basic income pilot program, Chantia Lewis, Nik Kovac, The Stockton program,Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration
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