By Kevin Hardy, Arizona Mirror

This article was originally published on Arizona Mirror,

South Dakota State Senator John Wyke likes to think of himself as a vigilante of sorts – keeping an eye on new laws, programs and ideas cropping up in the state.

“I don’t introduce a lot of legislation,” said Wyke, a Republican. “The main thing I like to do is stay ahead of the trends and stop bad things from coming to our state.”

This session means sponsoring successful legislation Banning cities or counties from creating basic income programs that provide direct, regular cash payments to low-income residents to help reduce poverty.

Although Wieck is not aware of any local governments in South Dakota publicly pursuing the idea, he describes such programs as “bureaucrats trying to hand out checks to make sure are making sure that your party’s registration matches the same person who signed the check for the rest of your life.”

The economic hit of the pandemic and related aid efforts like the expanded child tax credit popularized the idea of ​​handing out cash directly to people in need. Advocates say the programs can be administered more efficiently than traditional government aid programs, and Research Suggest that they increase not only financial stability but also mental and physical health.

Still, Wyke and other Republicans argue that handing out cash with no strings attached discourages work — and that having fewer workers available is especially worrisome in such a state of the country. Second lowest unemployment rate.

South Dakota is one of at least six states where GOP officials have considered banning basic income programs.

The concept of basic income has been around for decades, but a 2019 experiment in Stockton, California sparked a major expansion. There, 125 individuals received $500 per month with no strings attached for two years. Independent researchers found The program improved financial stability and health, But concluded that the pandemic mitigated those effects.

GOP lawmakers like Wyke fear the pilot program could also set a dangerous precedent.

“What did Ronald Reagan say, ‘The closest thing to eternal life on this planet is a government program’?” Wiik said. “So, if you get people addicted to getting checks from the government, it’s going to be really hard to overcome that.”

The debate over basic income programs is likely to intensify as lawmakers in blue states look to expand pilot programs. For example, Minnesota could become the first in the nation to fund a statewide program. But elected officials in red states are working to thwart such efforts — not only by fighting statewide efforts but also by preventing local communities from starting their own basic income programs.

Democratic governors in Arizona and Wisconsin recently vetoed Republican legislation banning basic income programs.

Last week, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton Harris County sued To block a pilot program that would provide $500 a month to 1,900 low-income people in his home area of ​​Houston, the state’s largest county.

Paxton, a Republican, argued that the program is illegal because it violates a state constitutional provision that says local governments cannot give public funds to individuals.

Harris County Attorney Christian Menefee, a Democrat, called Paxton’s move is “nothing more than an attack on local government and an attempt to grab headlines.”

Meanwhile, many blue states are pushing to expand these programs.

Washington state lawmakers debated a statewide basic income bill during this year’s short session. And Minnesota lawmakers are debating whether to spend $100 million to launch one of the nation’s first statewide pilot programs.

“We are definitely seeing a shift from pilot to policy,” said Sukhi Samra, director of Mayors for a Guaranteed Income, which formed after the Stockton experiment.

So far, he said, that organization has helped launch about 60 pilot programs across the country that will provide $250 million in unconditional aid.

Samra said, despite opposition in some states recent poll The group shows broad support for basic income programs launched by the group. And the programs have shown success in supplementing — not replacing — social safety net programs, he said.

Extra cash gives recipients freedom of choice. People can fix a flat tire, pack school supplies or celebrate a child’s birthday for the first time.

“There is no social safety net program that allows you to do that.” He said. “…This is an effective policy that helps our families, and it could fundamentally change the way we address poverty in this country.”

basic income experiment

The spread of basic income projects has been closely studied by researchers.

Although many feared that free cash would discourage people from working, Sarah Kimberlin, executive director and senior research scholar at Stanford University’s Center on Poverty and Inequality, said that has not been the case.

Stanford’s Basic Income Lab has tracked Over 150 basic income pilots Across the country. Typically, they offer $500 or $1,000 per month over a short period.

“There’s nowhere in the United States where you can live on $500 a month,” he said. “At the same time, $500 a month really makes a huge difference for someone who is living really close to the edge.”

Kimberlin said research on basic income programs has been promising so far, although it is unclear how long the benefits might last after the program ends. Still, he said, plenty of research shows how important economic stability in childhood is for stability in adulthood — both basic income programs and the pandemic-era child tax credit could address this.

Over the past five years, basic income experiments have varied across the country.

Last year, California launched The nation’s first state-funded pilot program targeting former foster youth.

In Colorado, the Denver Basic Income Project was aimed at helping homeless individuals. After early successes, the Denver City Council provided funding late last year expand that programWhich offers up to $1,000 per month to hundreds of participants.

A 2021 pilot launched in Cambridge, Massachusetts provided $500 a month over 18 months to 130 single caregivers. Research Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found that the Cambridge program increased employment, the ability to cover a $400 emergency expense, and food and housing security among participants.

Children from participating families were more likely to enroll in Advanced Placement courses, earn higher grades, and have less absenteeism.

Geeta Pradhan, chair of the Cambridge Community Foundation, which worked on the project, said, “It was really affirming to hear that when families are not stressed, they are actually able to do much better.”

Pradhan said basic income programs are part of a national trend of “faith-based philanthropy”, which empowers individuals rather than imposing top-down solutions to fight poverty.

“I think that’s something that affects people’s sense of empowerment, that sense of agency, that freedom that you feel,” he said. “I think these programs cover some very important aspects of humanity.”

While the pilot concluded, Cambridge City Council pledged $22 million in federal pandemic aid for a second round of funding. Now, about 2,000 families with incomes at or below 250% of the federal poverty level are receiving $500 monthly payments, said City Council member Sumbul Siddiqui.

Siddiqui, a Democrat, had pushed for the original pilot while he was mayor during the pandemic. Although he said the program has proven successful, it is unclear whether the city can find a sustainable source of funding to continue it long term.

States want to expand pilots

Tomas Vargas Jr. was among 125 people who benefited from a basic income program in Stockton, California, launched in 2019.

At the time, he heard a lot of criticism from people who said beneficiaries would spend their money on drugs and alcohol or quit their jobs.

“A discount of $500 a month, that surprised me,” said Vargas, who works part-time at UPS.

But he said the cash has given him breathing room. He felt stuck in his job, but the extra money gave him the freedom to take time off to interview for better jobs.

Unlike other social service programs like food stamps, they didn’t have to worry about losing out if their income continued to grow. The cash allowed him to become a better father, he said, while also improving his self-confidence and mental health.

The experience inspired her to enter the nonprofit sector. Financially stable, he now works at Meyers for a guaranteed income.

“I’m not the same person I was five years ago,” he said.

Washington state Senator Claire Wilson, a Democrat, said basic income is a proactive way to disrupt the status quo maintained by other anti-poverty efforts.

“I believe that our systems in our country have never been set up to wean people out of this,” he said. “He puts people where they belong.”

Wilson is chairman of the Human Services Committee Considered a basic income bill This session a pilot program will be created to offer 7,500 people a monthly amount equal to the fair market rent for a two-bedroom apartment in their area.

There was no progress on a basic income bill during Washington’s short legislative session this year, but Wilson said lawmakers will revisit the idea next year. While she advocates the concept, she said there is still a lot of work to be done to convince skeptics.

In Minnesota, where lawmakers are considering a $100 million statewide basic income pilot program, some Republicans balked at the concept of free cash and its cost to taxpayers.

Republican state Rep. John Koznik, meanwhile, said, “The cost alone should be a concern.” A committee meeting this month,

State Representative Athena Hollins, a Democrat who sponsored the legislation, acknowledged the burdensome request, but said supporters would support a shorter version and “thought it was really important to start this conversation.”

Much of the conversation in the committee focused on local programs in cities such as Minneapolis and St. Paul. St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter, a Democrat, told lawmakers that the city’s 2020 pilot saw “phenomenal” results.

After years of squandering, some families were able to put money into savings for the first time, he said. Families experienced less anxiety and depression. And the pilot rejected critics’ “disparaging remarks” about people living in poverty, the mayor said.

Carter told lawmakers that the complex issue of economic insecurity demands a statewide solution.

He said, “I am well aware that the policy we are proposing today is different from the policy we are accustomed to.” “In fact, it’s one of my favorite things about it.”

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