Roughly 400 Newark residents will take part in a city-run universal income pilot program, the city’s mayor Ras Baraka announced on May 10.
Baraka said during the press announcement, made Monday afternoon at city hall, that the goal is “to show the world that we give our residents freedom of choice and recognize and affirm that inherent dignity, they will make decisions that will help us build a stronger and more resilient city.”
Also known as guaranteed income, the proposal has gained steam nationwide, with dozens of similar pilot programs in cities across the country. Former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang, who’s eyeing the seat of New York City mayor, has also been a big proponent of the idea.
Baraka said the goal of the program is to add to the existing nationwide body of research, rather than to later on expand the program.
The program will start with 30 people and expand to 400 participants over the next two years. It calls for monthly checks for residents, with no strings, terms or conditions.
That’s unlike other social support programs, be it nutritional assistance, unemployment, Medicare and Medicaid.
Baraka said the program will be funded via $2.2 million from private donors. The Victoria Foundation is overseeing the funds and the pilot program, and city-based, financial tech firm MoCaFi will distribute the checks.
Eligibility is limited to Newark residents of at least 18 years of age, who earn at or below 200% of the federal poverty threshold.
Priority groups are those “facing housing insecurity,” as well as undocumented residents, youth aging out of foster care, newly housed and formerly homeless, and formerly incarcerated residents.
“Here we have an opportunity to directly empower and strengthen hundreds of lives immediately, while also demonstrating how to do so to the entire nation,” the mayor continued in a statement.