The New Year has brought more trouble for low and moderate-earning families and individuals across the US. While 2021 marked the end of all direct federal stimulus checks, the state inflation relief payments effectively ended in 2022.
The payments that continued into the new year were extensions and delays that pushed the stimulus checks well into the first quarter of 2023. But with California and other states winding up their payments, the second quarter has mostly been a barren one for Americans when it comes to stimulus checks from their government.
But many cities are now coming forward with economic empowerment plans that are giving residents a bare minimum of stimulus checks on a regular basis.
Most of the pans are on a test basis and the stimulus checks are not just a freebie. It is seen more as an enabler to help people push out of hopeless situations and enhance their career prospects.
Many individuals have been able to give up their dysfunctional jobs and take out time to enhance their employment prospects thanks to these stimulus checks.
Presidential Candidate Andrew Yang First Popularized Guaranteed Income Stimulus Checks As Part Of His Campaign
If you have learned about guaranteed income in the past few years, especially after the 2020 presidential campaign, it must be through 2020 Presidential candidate Andrew Yang. He got much attention through his campaign where he proposed that the government should offer a monthly stimulus check of $1,000 to all Americans.
The idea was not new and various version of this economic concept has been in circulation for decades. Progressive activists and academics have long advocated such a system. They have negated fears that it would discourage people from joining the workforce and that would have a negative effect on the economy.
Instead, a minimum guaranteed income has time and again ensured that it has helped many people get out of desperate situations.
For people like Mayor Michael Tubbs of Stockton in California, even a small amount given to the deserving made all the difference between surviving and total collapse. It was a path back to a stable life that helped people cover their rent and utility payments.
Major Tubbs had passed through a childhood where he had seen his mother and his friends struggle with regular expenses even as they received little help from the Stockton government. It is one of the poorest cities in the US and sits in the Central Valley.
The Mayor has surmised that a relatively small regular income, even as low as $6,000 a year per recipient would be enough to cover the occasional emergency expense or supplement a minimum salary.
Such a small stimulus check could, he felt, single-handedly eliminate the uncertainty and insecurity that governed the lives of many poor residents of the city.
Major Tubbs created a pilot program with guidance and funds from Economic Security Project, a non-profit. It was among the first in the US. he set simple goals though ambitious. He aimed to first go for a demonstration project and aimed to turn it into an undisputed success. This he surmised, would force the national political leaders to study the scheme and consider adopting the guaranteed income scheme on a national level.
Three years down the line, Everett, one of the beneficiaries of the stimulus check scheme emotionally described the effect the stimulus checks had on her then-troubled life. It helped her escape a dysfunctional marriage and move into a home of her own. She terms it as a stepping stone in her life.
It got her to where she was comfortable with her life. She said that the funds came in right on time and helped her improve her job prospect by increasing her education. It also helped her get through a COVID-19 infection. The viral attack left her unable to join the workforce for most of 2020.
But the monthly $500 stimulus checks came in at just the right time and were sufficient to cover her medical expenses. At the moment as the country emerges from the pandemic, other cities try to adopt similar measures and send out stimulus checks to the really deserving.
Pilot programs were launched in New Orleans, Los Angeles, and even in historically less progressive cities such as Birmingham in Alabama, Columbia in South Carolina, and Gainesville in Florida.
Even the Republicans, who have long balked at having to spend a penny for the poor in America have agreed to give $2 trillion to the people affected by the pandemic.
Since Mayor Tubbs adopted the project in Stockton, the Mayors for a Guaranteed Income coalition, which grew out of SEED has grown to have over 90 members and 3 dozen programs. Many of the pilot programs were helped along by the $15 million that Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey donated.
America has managed to shake off the initial effects of the pandemic and has admirably moved ahead. But the inflation in 2022 has also set back many programs and made a recovery that much tougher.
Both evidence on the ground like the story of Everett have proved the effectiveness of as a vehicle for massive change in the life of a recipient. This is supported by growing research based on the pilot projects proving that such stimulus checks sent out on a regular basis do really work.
Regular stimulus checks, however small, have succeeded in pulling people out of the clutches of poverty, it has helped improve health outcomes. And made it easier for beneficiaries and their families to go out looking for jobs. It has also helped families take care of their families.
But while there is overwhelming empirical evidence that guaranteed income has helped people make a marked improvement in their lives. But more than such evidence, it is the political will that is lacking and stifles any change of guaranteed income on a larger scale. The experiment conducted on the city level cannot be expected to last forever or have any meaningful impact in the long run.