As Congress debates what it will take to give the American people an economic lifeline during the COVID-19 pandemic, state and city leaders are scrambling to provide relief.
Many workers in Sacramento and around the nation have depended on that extra $600 per week that they've been getting thanks to the CARES Act, which is set to expire Friday. In California, Democrats have proposed a stimulus package of their own that could use future tax vouchers.
Local government and community leaders are looking for other options that could help communities who need help paying off bills and keeping their families fed.
Before the pandemic, Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs launched a pilot program for what he calls a “basic income.” The program gives eligible Stockton residents $500 a month to pay for what they need. On Insight, he told CapRadio host Randol White that his faith guided him when developing the pilot.
“He (Jesus) didn’t say go find work. He took two fishes and five loaves and made sure there was enough to eat because he understood that folks need their basic necessities met,” Tubbs said.
The Stockton pilot program focused on residents who came from neighborhoods with a median income below the city’s median income of $46,033 a year. Now other American cities want to launch a basic income program of their own. Tubbs launched “Mayors For A Guaranteed Income” — a coalition of city leaders who support the idea of giving out regular cash payments to people, with no strings attached. From Los Angeles to Atlanta, 13 cities have joined the coalition.
Tubbs responded to critics of the program, who say the cash payments could give people the motivation to stay home and avoid looking for a job.
“From what we’ve seen in the past two years in Stockton, a vast majority of people who can work, do work,” Tubbs said. “We know that people are working two jobs, working three jobs and they still can’t can’t pay for basic necessities. I don’t think there’s any honor in working yourself to death instead of being given the dignity to afford rent or an emergency.”
Income inequality is a major focus of another campaign backed by civil rights leader Dolores Huerta. She is advocating for what she calls a survival income for undocumeted immigrants in California.
She says undocumented workers are suffering more than most during the pandemic.
“Undocumented workers are not eligible for unemployment insurance at all, because the money comes in from the federal government to the state,” Huerta said on Insight. “It’s really tragic, when you think about the essential workers, like farm workers, homecare workers and childcare workers. What happens with children at home and schools are closed, you have one family member who has to stay home to take care of them. So that cuts their income in half. Immediately.”
Huerta says Gov. Gavin Newsom’s $75 million coronavirus relief fund for undocumented immigrants was a start, but it didn’t go far enough. Some of the challenges to her proposal is the debate over what the budget should be supporting and the rising number of coronavirus infections.
“If we can end this pandemic, we can get things back to normal. But I think back to normal is not the way wanted for undocumented people,” said Huerta. "We have to get immigration reform. We have to get everybody covered by health care. We have to rethink how we do our economic business to make sure everybody is covered and everybody is safe and everybody can be taken care of.”
For Mayor Micahel Tubbs, balancing the scales is one key factor behind his motivation for a guaranteed income.
“We know that there have been times when this country has given things to people, whether it’s land, whether it’s a college education, whether it’s favorable mortgage and loans,” Tubbs said. “But that giving has been given to a subset of the population and we see how much benefit that has had, when you have extreme outcomes based on race and class.”
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