Mayor of Somerville, Massachusetts, announces guaranteed basic income pilot program  

Mayor of Somerville, Massachusetts, announces guaranteed basic income pilot program  
Mayor of Somerville, Massachusetts, announces guaranteed basic income pilot program  

By The Somerville Times

See original post here.

Today, Mayor Katjana Ballantyne joins more than 100 mayors from across the country as part of Mayors for a Guaranteed Income (MGI), a coalition of mayors who establish and advocate for local and national guaranteed income programs. Guaranteed income programs provide unrestricted cash payments directly to vulnerable residents to create greater financial stability for those most in need. Somerville’s program goes beyond that general goal; it also specifically aims to support housing stability. The city’s program will serve a group of the city’s lowest-income households who are at risk of losing their housing.

Program participants have been proactively identified from the city’s most vulnerable families. Two frontline social and family services, the Somerville Family Learning Collaborative (SFLC) of the Somerville Public Schools and the city’s Office of Housing Stability (OHS), identified households they currently serve who are experiencing housing instability. Enrollment is only open via this direct outreach to existing social and housing service clients.  

Identifying a pool of participants from residents with current documented need is designed to ensure the program maximizes its impact to prevent housing displacement. The Somerville Guaranteed Basic Income Program is expecting to serve approximately 200 households. The pilot program was developed via a partnership with two research centers at UMass Boston: the Center for Social Policy and the Edward J. Collins Jr. Center for Public Management. UMass Boston brings to this partnership expertise in the policies and implementation lessons learned from prior universal and guaranteed basic income programs that have been conducted countrywide.

SFLC and OHS began contacting identified households in March 2024. Each identified family enrolled in the Somerville Guaranteed Basic Income Program will receive $750/month to use for expenses they identify themselves. Unrestricted use of the funding is designed to increase household financial stability, and ultimately housing stability. Payments are slated to start in July 2024 and will continue for one year. The funding comes from President Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) that was established in 2021 to support economic and health recovery efforts from the impact of COVID-19. The official name of the City’s program is Somerville Guaranteed Basic Income Pilot.  

This pilot program will be evaluated for its impact, efficacy, and future feasibility in partnership with the UMass Center for Social Policy and the Collins Center. Outcomes will be shared with the public and will inform future advocacy and any potential initiatives.   

“Sometimes you just need some solid ground under your feet to get by and move forward, and this program is looking to provide that foothold. As the Mayor of Somerville, I’m proud to join my fellow mayors nationwide to call for a guaranteed income. The data proves that this is one of the most impactful ways to empower and build stability for struggling families and households,” said Mayor Ballantyne. “We are seeking to not only assist participants with affording housing as well as other necessities. Rather by helping to build a foundation of greater stability we aim to support related progress linked to stability including improved health, mental health, and the ability to seize the educational, job, and other opportunities needed for individuals and families to thrive.”  

“It is widely known how important the connection between housing stability and educational outcomes is for students and their families. This pilot program is a wonderful opportunity to address some very challenging hardships, provide the stability needed for families to stay here in Somerville, and allow their children to thrive in the Somerville Public Schools,” said Regina Bertholdo, Director of Basic Needs and Housing Support Services in the Somerville Public Schools. 

U.S. Census and other data show that financial and housing instability disproportionately impacts people of color and female-led households.  

  • In the United States, wealth and income inequality have reached historic highs.  
  • Thirty-seven percent of Americans cannot afford a single $400 emergency, and rising income inequality is compounded by a growing racial wealth gap, according to a 2022 Federal Reserve survey. 
  • The median wealth of white families in the U.S. was more than six times higher ($285,000) than the median wealth of Black families ($45,000) in 2022, according to the Federal Reserve.  
  • In 2022, 51% of Greater Boston renter households were cost burdened, more than at any point in the previous 17 years, according to the Boston Foundation 2023 Greater Boston Housing Report Card. Cost-burdened renters spend more than 30% of their income on rent. 
  • Approximately 35% of all Somerville renter households spend more than 30% of their income on housing and 16.3% of Somerville renter households spend more than 50% on housing.  

“We need to use every tool in the box – and then invent more – to continue to address housing affordability, and housing affordability is at the heart of so many other wellness factors from time with family to mental health. Fortunately, the Ballantyne administration came in fully committed to taking on the housing crisis and advancing equity and wellness,” said Ellen Shachter, Director of the Office of Housing Stability. “My office sees families in difficult housing situations every day. The Somerville Guaranteed Basic Income Pilot gives us one more way to get vital support into the hands of families who need it right now and to test this model for longer-term solutions. This program is an important step forward.” 

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