Portland, Maine Exploring Universal Basic Income Program

The Portland City Council’s Housing and Economic Development Committee recently released a draft of their 2024 Work Plan, which includes exploring the implementation of a universal basic income (UBI) and a possible increase of the city’s minimum wage to $20 per hour.

Portland, Maine Exploring Universal Basic Income Program
Portland, Maine Exploring Universal Basic Income Program

By Edward Tomic

See original post here.

The Housing and Economic Development Committee is made up of Portland City Councilors Pious Ali, Roberto Rodriguez, Regina Phillips, and Kate Sykes.

Listed on the committee’s drafted Work Plan, under the heading “Economic Development Policy,” is “Implement a Universal Basic Income pilot project” and “Evaluate the City’s Minimum Wage Ordinance re: possible increase to $20/hour.”

Both items are designated as committee members’ priorities.

Universal basic income refers to welfare programs under which every adult citizen would receive regular payments of a set amount from the government-collected tax revenues.

So-called UBI’s are theoretically intended to boost economic participation and provide a subsistence-level of financial security.

Dark horse 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang brought the idea of universal basic income programs under a national spotlight, making a guaranteed monthly government check of $1,000 the key pillar of his campaign.

The Portland-based nonprofit Quality Housing Coalition launched a pilot UBI program in July 2023, under which a cohort of 20 single mothers received direct monthly payments of $1,000 over the course of one year.

The minimum wage in Portland rose from $14 to $15 per hour at the start of 2024, ahead of the state’s current minimum wage of $14.15 an hour.

As part of Portland’s minimum wage ordinance, the hourly wage increases 1.5 times to $22.50 per hour whenever an emergency order is in effect, which most recently occurred as a response to severe flooding in mid-January.

The Work Plan document was shared during the committee’s Jan. 23 meeting, though the committee did not discuss the individual policy proposals in detail.

Committee Chair and Councilor At-Large Pious Ali told the committee that he will work with staff to schedule workshops on the items listed on the Work Plan during the second of the committee’s bimonthly meetings going forward.

City Councilor Roberto Rodriguez said in reference to the Work Plan that “there’s a lot of items here that we can probably take some deep dives into,” and that the list of priorities “looks ambitious.”

Other measures listed as priority items on the Work Plan include evaluating the establishment of a City Department of Labor, a Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) Program, a “Community Opportunity to Purchase Act” and “Right to Return” Policy.

PILOT refers to payments made to governments in the place of property taxes meant to pull revenue from tax-exempt organizations such as universities and non-profit medical providers.

The federal government instituted a Payment in Lieu of Taxes program in 1977 aimed at helping local governments offset losses in property taxes due to nontaxable federal lands within their boundaries.

A “Community Opportunity to Purchase Act,” which has been implemented in San Francisco, California, give nonprofit organizations the right of first offer or refusal to purchase certain residential properties or vacant land for the purpose of developing affordable rental housing.

“Right to Return,” often used in the context of international law, is the idea that displaced populations and their descendants have the right to move back to the area from which they were displaced.

The City of Portland, Oregon established a first of its kind “Right to Return” policy in 2014, allocating millions of taxpayer dollars toward stemming the tide of gentrification in the city’s historically black neighborhoods through down payment subsidies and other housing assistance initiatives.

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