Oakland: Why one California city is giving $500 a month to Black families with a low income

The San Francisco Bay Area city of Oakland, California, home to decades of civil rights activism as well as huge, tech-fuelled disparities in wealth, laid out its plans on Tuesday to give families of colour $500 a month with no strings attached, one of the largest universal basic income (UBI) pilots ever tried in the US.

Under the programme 600 low-income families who self-identify as Black, indigenous, or people of colour, will receive $500 a month for 18 months, regardless of their employment, immigration, or housing status.

Local officials said the goal of the programme, proposed last year, was to combat the racial wealth gap in Oakland, where median African-American income, at $50,000 a year, is less than half of median white income

“We believe that guaranteed income is the most transformative policy that can achieve this vision and whose time has come,” said Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said on Tuesday.

The pilot programme does not use taxpayer funds, and is a partnership between Oakland, a coalition of ten cities trying UBI, the Family Independence Initiative, and the philanthropic group Blue Meridian Partners, which provided $6.7 million to support the programme.

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