Hartford task force to recommend universal basic income program for city residents. Pilot study would begin with 25 families.
Hartford is taking its first steps toward embracing a universal basic income intended to alleviate poverty and replace need-based social programs.
The program would begin with a pilot group of 25 families in the city. While a basic income level is still to be determined, a city hall task force will deliver in coming days recommendations to develop a universal basic income pilot program for working mothers and fathers who are single. The plan has been developed over eight months in task force meetings and with working groups.
David Grant, executive assistant and legislative liaison at the office of the Court of Common Council, said a guaranteed income would address financial support for people who risk losing assistance if they take a job or a promotion.
“People will turn down jobs and promotions as not as profitable for them,” he said. “It creates generational poverty and dependence on social programs.”
With universal basic income, people can improve their lives without losing benefits, Grant said.
Universal basic income is a type of cash transfer program intended to raise the minimum income for a household, reduce income volatility and improve the distribution of antipoverty money. Ideas for cash assistance to replace a web of government funding goes back to the 1970s.
“This is not new,” Grant said.
Except for the Hartford proposal that calls for surveying and interviewing participants regularly about their finances and emotional and physical well-being, “we’re not being innovative,” he said.”
The city’s goal is to distribute money to 25 families that would be a “treatment group” that would give officials the opportunity to demonstrate that Hartford can establish the program and track participants. It also would provide information about how recipients use the money and “help demystify the lived experiences of Hartford families who may be struggling with economic insecurity,” the task force said.
The program will be taking place during the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic that will likely last years and will be very difficult without a comparison group to distinguish between the effect of universal basic income and the impact from recovery from the pandemic.
The task force recommends seeking money to develop a randomized control trial study to compare 25 families receiving universal basic income money with 25 families receiving compensation for responding to requests for information and samples and another 25 families measuring administrative data.
It also recommends measuring financial well-being; emotional and physical well-being; caregiver, child and family measures; and biological measures of stress.
Efforts are being organized nationally to develop guaranteed income programs.
A report in May by the New School Institute on Race and Political Economy advocated that the federal government use the tax code to guarantee income and promote economic security. It called for a “substantial overhaul and extension” of the Earned Income Tax Credit and eliminating wage requirements.
A group, Mayors for a Guaranteed Income, cite income and wealth disparity, particularly since the start of the pandemic, and disparate impacts on communities of color. The task force recommended that Hartford join the group to help with program design, funding, expertise and other resources.
Ken Girardin, research director at the Yankee Institute, a free market think tank and advocacy group, said the “fundamentals behind” a universal basic income are interesting, “but it has a ton of practical issues around it.”
For example, he said it’s not yet known if guaranteed income will replace or supplement government assistance, how recipients quality “and ultimately how you finance it.”
The task force listed several sources of potential funding, including the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving and several foundations.
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