Ulster County extends basic income experiment


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Ulster County, (NY), in is extending its universal basic income pilot program through the end of September.

Under the program, which kicked off in May 2021, 100 eligible households received a universal basic monthly income of $500 a piece for one year, funded through a $600,000 grant from The Community Foundations of the Hudson Valley.

The initiative is a partnership among the county’s Project Resilience, the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Guaranteed Income Research, Community Foundations of the Hudson Valley, and Ulster Savings Bank. The 100 participants were chosen at random by University of Pennsylvania researchers from thousands of Ulster County applicants. Researchers have been tracking the participants throughout the program and will continue to do so for six months once the program has ended to assess post-payment what happens to those households.

Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan said the impact of the program on the recipients’ lives, coupled with the financial pressures of today’s economy has prompted the county to extend the program — originally slated to end in April — through the end of September, although the amount each household receives will decrease as the program winds down, with participants receiving $400 in July, $350 in August and $250 in September. The Community Foundations of the Hudson Valley is providing $200,000 to extend the program.

“We had been hoping and working to continue it as long as we could,” said County Executive Pat Ryan in an interview Tuesday. “We know the financial pressures have only gotten worse, and clearly the need has gotten worse.

“We were able to make the case and I think everybody recognized if we could continue this longer it would be a benefit not only the participating families, but it will also give us more data on how this is working,” he said.

Deputy County Executive Johanna Contreras said that while university researchers will conduct formal evaluations of the participants, the county has been gathering anecdotal information about how participants have used the additional income.

“What we’re hearing is that they’re really using the income to pay for essentials,” Contreras said.

Several have used the additional funding for medical bills, including one participant who needed an MRI and would have been unable to afford the copay without the additional income, and a senior citizen who was able to get much-needed dental work thanks to the grant, she said. Others, she said, have used the income to help pay for child care in order to get caught up on bills and to help their elderly parents.

“We had somebody who told us the income changed their lives and that they’re a completely different person,” she said. “This aligns with every other piece of research and study not just across the country but across the world,” said Ryan, adding that those studies have repeatedly shown that recipients use the income “for desperately needed things like healthcare and housing and food and childcare.”

“Every day we’re hearing from folks who are just under so much pressure. … With this, the gas tax relief, small business relief, property tax relief, we’re trying everything we can at the local level to relieve the financial pressure we know everyone is feeling,” Ryan said. “I’m really proud that once again our community came through and figured out how to make this work.”

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