Special Report

26 US Cities With Guaranteed Income Programs

The idea of basic universal income – where the government pays each citizen a certain amount at a regular interval – has been around for decades, but picked up steam during the pandemic. Quite frankly, it sounds enticing; who wouldn’t want some regular extra cash, no strings attached? But while for most people nationwide, such a guaranteed payment would mean just some extra spending money, for others it can mean the difference between being able to buy diapers, pay for utilities, and put food on the table – or not.

Right now, there are over 30 guaranteed income pilot programs across the United States, according to the Guaranteed Income Pilots Dashboard, with a total of more than 8,000 participants. These programs mostly target those with greatest need – those living at or near the poverty line, often with children. 

For example, one program in Atlanta pays 275 participants who have an income of no more than 200% of the federal poverty line $500 once a month for about a year. Another in Los Angeles pays $1,000 a month for a year to about 3,200 residents who are either pregnant or with at least one dependent child who have income at or below the federal poverty line. (Here are 25 facts of life the federal poverty rate completely ignores.)

While opponents of such programs often contend guaranteed income may tempt people not to work, the results from the pilot programs tell a different story. 

Participants range from struggling working parents using the cash payment to buy food, for transportation, to buy their kids necessary clothes, or to put them in sports programs. Others use the money to complete education and find jobs and get out of financial distress. Mostly, participants describe the guaranteed cash payments as simply allowing them to breathe. (Also see 50 cities with huge populations living on food stamps.)

To find guaranteed income programs across the country, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed The Guaranteed Income Pilots Dashboard

Click here to see a detailed methodology.
Click here to see the 26 US cities with guaranteed income programs.

Unlike most guaranteed income programs, which mostly target those most in need, one universal basic income program that has been going for over 40 years is the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend, which provides each state resident with an annual dividend funded by oil revenues. The amount varies annually, and in September 2022, each resident received a check for $2,622, the largest amount yet. 

While some residents have used this cash windfall to buy TVs and go on vacation, the money is desperately needed in rural Alaska, where the costs of living, especially fuel and food, are enormous. A 2016 study by the University of Alaska found the PFD has lifted 15,000 to 25,000 Alaskans out of poverty annually, depending on the size of the dividend and the state of the economy that year.

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