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Louisville pilot program guarantees some young adults will receive basic income payments for one year

Andrew Moca on Unsplash

Guaranteed income aims to cover residents’ basic needs. The idea is to alleviate some financial burden so that they can focus on achieving stability. That can mean higher education, learning a trade and even saving up to break out of the paycheck-to-paycheck living cycle. 

At a press conference on Friday, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer announced the city is launching a pilot program that will provide some young adults with a basic income to give them a chance to explore different options and opportunities.. 

“The goal is to provide a foundation for young people transitioning to the working world, especially at a time where there’s a lot of challenges, and there's a lot of uncertainties,” Fischer said. 

Metro Government, Russell: a Place of Promise and Metro United Way are behind YALift!, Louisville's first guaranteed income program. The city and organizations developed the program in partnership with Mayors for a Guaranteed Income, a national group that has supported similar pilot initiatives in 19 other U.S. cities. 

The program will use a lottery system to randomly choose up to 150 residents to receive $500 per month for one year — no strings attached. Recipients will be able to spend the money however they need. That can include rent, food or child care.

Maya White is an economic analyst with Russell: a Place of Promise, which is a neighborhood development project run alongside Metro Government. 

“The way we talk about poverty is different now. Even the policies and processes of social welfare systems are being talked about differently,” White said. “[Guaranteed income] confronts the root of economic violence, which is poverty.” 

YALift! will also run a research study to track whether, over time, guaranteed incomes help boost financial stability, housing, food security and the overall wellbeing of residents. The organizers will collect data and resident experiences to bolster a national push for a federal guaranteed income program. 

It will seek out 180 additional residents to participate in only its research component. All participating residents, both those receiving payments and others, will be asked to complete surveys throughout the program’s 12-month duration to help inform the overall study. 

Mayor Fischer said one California city saw success with its guaranteed income pilot.

“In Stockton, California, folks who received guaranteed income were twice as likely to get a full time job as those who did not. They also reported lower anxiety, lower levels of depression,” he said. 

Former Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs launched a nonprofit this week that’s focused on ending poverty in California.

Colleen Reilly is a project manager with Metro United Way, the organization overseeing the program. She said a goal of the pilot will be to advance racial equity. 

“The measure of a community's success doesn't lie to those who already have the opportunity to thrive, but in those still fighting for them,” Reilly said. “We're driven by the possibility of more of our neighbors achieving the goals we all share for ourselves and our families: health, safety, opportunity — and the chance to fulfill our potential and pursue our dreams.”

An important factor to note is that the program’s monthly payments are considered gifts from the government and could affect participants’ eligibility to receive supplemental benefits, if they push them above the income limits for certain programs. YALift! will offer benefits counseling to residents chosen to receive a monthly payment before entering any commitments. This aims to help residents decide whether pilot participation is best for their specific situation. 

To qualify, residents have to meet two requirements: be 18 to 24 years old and live in the California, Russell or Smoketown neighborhoods. 

Officials with Metro United Way said, as of Friday, the organization’s received 100 applications and 400 are pending completion. 

Residents can find out more about YALift!, and apply through Metro United Way. The application period is open through Feb. 21. The organization is slated to start distributing the first round of payments at the end of April.  

Support for this story was provided in part by theJewish Heritage Fund for Excellence.

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