By: NICK BOWMAN
King County Councilmember Dave Upthegrove announced this week that he intends to push for a preliminary study into universal basic income. Upthegrove noted in a written release that the economic impact from the pandemic over the last year has made it clear to him that providing people with a stable income is crucial in times of need.
“The economic disruptions brought on by COVID-19 have cast a spotlight on the devastation caused by losing one’s income,” he said.
Typically, universal basic income programs have been run by city-level governments, including a pilot starting this summer in Tacoma. That said, Upthegrove believes that looking into it at the county level could provide valuable data.
“I am interested to learn what a county program might look like and how it could be structured to best assist those who need it the most,” he described.
“What kind of qualifications would be best? What goals would be meaningful and measurable? A study that provided such answers could drive future policy discussions and now is the perfect time to look at creative economic ideas.”
Tacoma’s own pilot program will run for one year, distributing a monthly $500 stipend to roughly 100 families facing poverty. It will be funded from by a $500,000 donation from Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, and an additional $100,000 from the Mayors for Guaranteed Income group.
Without similar donations in King County, Upthegrove will look to fund his proposed study with a request in the spring supplemental budget, which is set for a council vote in late-June.
In a separate pilot program that ran in Stockton, California, roughly 43% of participants worked full- or part-time; 11% took care of parents or children; 20% had some sort of disability; and just 2% said they weren’t looking for work. Of the $500 they received monthly, 40% went toward food, 25% to sales and other merchandise, and 12% was spent on utility payments.