Advocates discuss plan to give cash payments to low-income people of Boston

BOSTON — Guaranteed income according to advocates is a way to lend a financial hand to people in need. And it’s an idea being tried out in cities across the country including Chelsea and Cambridge.

Now Boston is now considering its own pilot program.

You may ask why because many perceive Boston as a prosperous city, a place where people flock to find work.

Well, it may surprise many that one-fifth of city residents live in poverty according to Boston’s Chief of Economic Opportunity and Inclusion

“The number of Bostonians roughly around 18 percent are living in poverty,” said Segun Idowu who is Boston’s Chief of Economic Opportunity and Inclusion.

He joined others at City Hall on Monday to discuss guaranteed income - which is different from universal basic income - where everyone would get money from the government.

“Guaranteed income enters the picture where universal income is too expensive to finance,” said Elijah Miller who is the Director of Policy for the Office of Economic Opportunity and Inclusion.

He says guaranteed income consists of the following:

  • Routine cash payments
  • Often unconditional
  • Targeted to certain demographics

“Often the goal is get people the cash that they need on a regular basis where it’s predictable it’s reliable and it allows them to manage and improve their financial situation,” said Miller.

Chelsea’s program was privately funded by the Shah Foundation and Covid relief funds giving people $400.00 dollars a month.

Cambridge tired it too giving families in need $500.00 a month also paid with Covid relief funds.

But for many including City Council President Ed Flynn the question is how to fund guaranteed income when he says a guarantee of work may be a better option.

“And I believe the best way to achieve this is through a good paying job and career with benefits that can support a family and to ensure that all families have access to good jobs and good wages,” said Ed Flynn, who is President of the  Boston City Council.

Flynn said funding basic city services should be a priority.

However, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu says in this time of economic uncertainty guaranteed income is an idea worth considering.

“People everywhere are hurting we hear that throughout the country are hurting and all through our neighborhoods,” said Michelle WU, the Mayor of Boston.

Flynn said with the economy uncertain now is not the time to experiment. “Businesses are concerned about our economic outlook. We have vacant office and commercial spaces that have not recovered from the pandemic. There are also concerns about the commercial tax base,” said Flynn.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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