He is best known for his work on a Stockton pilot project that provided $500 a month to a small group of low-income residents.
OAKLAND, Calif. — Gov. Gavin Newsom has tapped former Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs, nationally known for his work on universal basic income, to become an adviser on income inequality, child poverty and California’s economic recovery from Covid-19.
Tubbs, 30, is best known for his work on a Stockton pilot project that provided $500 a month to a small group of low-income residents, a concept that became part of the national political conversation and was promoted by Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang. A rising Democratic star, Tubbs suffered a surprising loss in his November bid for a third term.
He told POLITICO that he will become Newsom’s “special adviser on economic mobility and opportunity” beginning Tuesday, with a special emphasis on the Central Valley, where unemployment and poverty rates have been among the highest in the state.
The position is unpaid.
“California is the fifth largest economy in the world, and one of the most diverse places in the world,” Tubbs said. “And the governor and I are in agreement that economic gains and opportunity have to be broadly shared.’’
Tubbs was a Stockton success story, growing up in the disadvantaged south side of town before going to Stanford University. He was elected mayor of Stockton at age 22, becoming one of the youngest elected officials in the country. His advocacy on income equality issues and UBI efforts made him the focus of the HBO documentary, “Stockton on My Mind.”
The decision by Tubbs to become a high-profile ambassador and actor in Newsom’s administration comes as the governor is facing the growing specter of a recall, with proponents claiming they’ve already collected more than the 1.5 million valid signatures they need to qualify the election by a March 17 deadline.
In an upset last November, Tubbs was defeated in the wake of fierce criticism from a local blog, police and firefighter opposition and criticism from residents who said he had not done enough to solve the city’s homelessness and crime problems.
Tubbs said he was wooed for a Biden administration job — and that he accepted it — before deciding instead to stay in California and focus on helping his home state rebound from the pandemic.
Asked whether his move was related to the recall, Tubbs said, “Most people in this country and in the state understand the recall is utter nonsense. I really view my role as providing extra willpower and extra firepower to the governor’s initiatives that are already ongoing.”
Tubbs’ announcement comes on the heels of a newly-released study which showed the universal basic income experiment he launched in Stockton — giving randomly selected residents $500 per month for two years with no strings attached — “measurably improved participants’ job prospects, financial stability and overall well-being,” NPR reported.
Among the key findings of the report by independent researchers were that the Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration (SEED) cash infusions slashed month-to-month income fluctuations that households face and boosted the full-time employment of recipients by 12 percentage points. The program also appeared to address key mental health issues related to poverty, including measurable feelings of anxiety and depression, the study suggested.
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