NEWARK, NJ – A guaranteed income pilot program designed to help Newark residents avoid economic uncertainty by putting money straight into their hands, unconditionally, could begin soon, starting with a select group of people.

The idea of ​​an income pilot, first raised in 2019 by Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, was welcomed in the city where more than a third of its residents live below the poverty line. While the universal basic income is a government benefit that aims to reduce income inequality through direct injection of money, guaranteed income is often sought after.

To gradually expand the program, city officials launched the Newark Movement for Economic Justice at City Hall on Monday and began a two-year research study. The city will start with an initial group of 30 residents before scaling up to 400 residents in the fall.

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“We will analyze this at the end,” said Baraka. “We want to be able to push for political changes at the state and federal level.”

The pilot will be one of the largest in the country and will work with Guaranteed Income Mayors, a national network of guaranteed income mayors campaigning to ensure that all Americans have an income floor. The research study is led by the Center for Guaranteed Income Research.

City officials will first recruit a group of residents who will work closely with more than 30 nonprofits and community departments to identify individuals who will qualify for the program. To qualify, individuals must be at least 18 years of age, resident in Newark, and have an income approximately 200% below the federal poverty line. This inclusion process offers residents of all five districts of the city the opportunity to participate in the program.

Once selected, participants will receive $ 6,000 per year for two years, with half of the people receiving payments bi-weekly and the other half receiving payments twice a year.

The process is examined and added to the research on structuring an unconditional monetary policy at the state and federal level. The pilot is targeting a range of residents affected by housing insecurity, including undocumented, newly housed, and formerly homeless, formerly incarcerated, and youth aging out of the care system.

Following the release of a report last year under the auspices of the Jain Family Institute and the Economic Security Project, the city’s collective approach helped identify $ 2.2 million in private funding for the Victoria Foundation-led program.

“The program enables Newarkers to make decisions about how to improve their lives with dignity,” said Hawwa Muhammad, program manager for the Newark Movement for Economic Justice. “Choosing between more hours of work to put food on the table or fewer hours of work to care for a loved one is not a choice. These are obligations. ”

By providing a guaranteed income for housing insecure populations, city officials expect residents to use the money to improve their lives in a fiscally responsible manner.

“It gives people, at least for a period of time, the stabilization they need to either find employment in a difficult market or to change their careers and continue their education while providing basic household goods and services,” she said Bernel Hall, President and CEO of Invest Newark told TAPinto Newark.

Although the program was ultimately set up to assist financially stressed residents, a guaranteed income program can have several drawbacks.

One of the challenges it faces, Hall explained, is timing.

“The debate is about how long people should be given guaranteed income before they say, ‘Okay, you’ve had enough time to stabilize your budget. We have to give the next family in need an equal opportunity, ”he said. “Everyone admits that most of these people use the money to buy basic goods and services, but some would argue that it prevents people from finding stable employment and leaving the program on time.”

Another long-term hurdle for the program is the consistent funding.

Currently, the program relies on a source of private funding that will one day run out and are being sought by anonymous donors and funding partners for additional support.

Catherine Wilson, President and CEO of United Way of Greater Newark, told TAPinto Newark that the program could undoubtedly transform an individual’s life and enable them to make a living and give back to the local economy.

Although the pilot is believed to be very successful and potentially could change people’s lives, Wilson noted that ultimately it will be necessary to keep it going.

“The biggest challenge will be to keep it going financially,” said Wilson. “It will take local philanthropy to co-invest in something like this with the state and local government.”