First direct cash payments coming to Columbia fathers through CLIMB basic income pilot program

One hundred Columbia-based fathers will soon have more money to provide for their families due to UBI pilots under guidance from the national organization Mayors for a Guaranteed Income.

By: Nick Neville

Columbia’s program, called the Columbia Life Improvement Monetary Boost (CLIMB), aims to explore the potential impact on guaranteed income to address poverty, inequity, and financial instability.

CLIMB was developed and launched in coordination with a number of partners, including Dream Team Consulting Firm, Central Carolina Community Foundation, SC Thrive, fintech company MoCaFi and the Midlands Fatherhood Coalition, which selected the recipients.

The first of 12 monthly, $500 dollar payments will be loaded onto debit cards this week.

Of the ten pilot cities with similar programs, Columbia’s is the only one that is singularly focused on men. CLIMB founder Dr. Jermaine Johnson, also a state representative, said this is important because it tracks with a parallel study in Jackson, Mississippi that provided guaranteed income to mothers.

“So we need to have data that supports all sides of the spectrum, not just one specific side, but other sides,” he said. “We want to be able to have data that supports it all because we’re a small part of a larger coalition of data and research that’s going on all across the United States.”

Mayor Benjamin said he selected Midlands Fatherhood Coalition, which offers a number of community-based support services for fathers, because the data illustrates that this organization has been “changing lives every single day.”

He said he personally knows the impact a great father can have on a young person.

“It’s up to us to try and figure out how we work to build those ties that bind, that build up communities,” Benjamin said. “This program is going to invest $600,000 directly into these communities all across Columbia.”

There were three criteria used to select recipients of the funds. A father had to be 18 years old, a resident of Columbia and had some prior involvement with the Midlands Fatherhood Coalition.

According to CLIMB’s website, this totaled 895 possible participants. Each of those individuals were encouraged to apply, and from that group 100 were randomly selected to receive the guaranteed income.

CLIMB is 100 percent privately and philanthropically-funded. No taxpayer dollars are being spent on the program.

Benjamin notably thanked Twitter founder Jack Dorsey for his contributions to CLIMB. Dorsey donated $18 million to Mayors for a Guaranteed Income last year.

Data on how the money is spent will be tracked anonymously to determine generalized economic impact. Johnson is hopeful that it will provide a noticeable boost for the city of Columbia’s economy.

He asked each participant at orientation a few weeks ago how they planned to spend the money, and was taken aback by the answers.

“You’d be surprised by the answers we’re hearing,” Johnson said. “You know, ‘it’s a blessing because I get to fix my car.’ Or ‘it’s a blessing because now I get to save up and I get to give this to my child when he gets older.’ Or ‘I get to open up a new bank account’ or ‘I get to get some clothes for my children.’ None of the things that they said were self-serving ideas. It was all about uplifting their families, uplifting their children, helping the communities out is what they all said.”

Benjamin said it’s important to show ideas that are pro-business, pro-people and often considered progressive can thrive in the American South.

“Maybe it might prompt not only more philanthropic spending in this space, but maybe some public spending,” he said. “Maybe it might serve as a platform for cities and for state legislatures and for the Congress to try and invest in more of a guaranteed income for those who need it most.”

Johnson says he plans to introduce legislation next session that would provide guaranteed income to all South Carolinians through the Palmetto Dividend Fund.

Upon completion, independent evaluators will conduct research into the program’s potential impact, and look to next steps. Dr. Stacia Martin West of the University of Tennessee and Dr. Amy Castro Baker of the University of Pennsylvania will publish the report.

For more information on the city’s guaranteed income pilot program, or to contribute funds, visit CLIMB’s website.

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