Will ‘basic income’ become the California norm? Town starts $500 no-strings payments
After months of planning, Stockton is sending debit cards loaded with $500 to a select group of residents starting Friday as part of a closely watched experiment in universal basic income, the first led by a U.S. city.
Stockton, once dubbed “America’s foreclosure capital,” was the largest city to seek bankruptcy protection before Detroit’s 2013 filing. During the recession, unemployment soared toward 20 percent, and violent crime rose. Today, one in four residents lives below the poverty line, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Now, as the city slowly recovers from financial disarray, officials and advocates look to the Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration, or SEED, to provide insight on whether a long-term basic income program is a viable creative approach to lifting residents out of poverty.
“The need has only been reiterated” in the last few weeks of preparation, SEED director Sukhi Samra said. “Folks are ready to use this money to pay bills, to save for the future, to pay off debt and pay for medicine.”