Mayor Schaaf Announces Guaranteed Income Pilot, Oakland Resilient Families

Date Posted: March 23rd, 2021 @ 11:01 AM
Last Updated: March 23rd, 2021 @ 11:29 AM
Reads Oakland Resilient Families

In partnership with Family Independent Initiative and Mayors for a Guaranteed Income, Oakland Resilient Families will be among the nation’s largest efforts to determine the effectiveness of monthly unconditional payments to residents to help overcome economic instability.

Oakland, Ca.— Oakland will host one of the largest guaranteed income pilot projects in the country to give 600 BIPOC families with low-incomes an unconditional $500 per month for at least 18 months.

Oakland Resilient Families is a collaboration between the Oakland-based community organization Family Independence Initiative and the national Mayors for a Guaranteed Income. The project will support 600 Oakland families while building momentum for strategies to eliminate racial disparities in economic stability, mobility, and assets through a guaranteed income.

“The poverty we all witness today is not a personal failure, it is a systems failure,” said Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf. “Guaranteed income is one of the most promising tools for systems change, racial equity, and economic mobility we’ve seen in decades. I’m proud to work with such committed local partners to build a new system that can help undo centuries of economic and racial injustice, and point us all toward a more just society.”

The Oakland Resilient Families partnership is excited to announce the framework design for community feedback, with the goal of starting payments this spring and summer.

Key Points:

  1. 1. Who is this for? Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) (i.e. groups with the greatest wealth disparities per the Oakland Equity Index) with low incomes and at least 1 child under 18, regardless of documentation status. The term “family” is defined broadly to recognize that families come in all shapes and sizes.

  1. 2. How is “low-income” defined? At or below 50% of Area Median Income (about $59,000 per year for a family of 3), however half of the spots are reserved for very-low income families earning below 138% of the Federal Poverty Level (about $30,000 per year for a family of 3).

  1. 3. How are families chosen and how will they apply? Later this spring and summer, and after considerable community outreach efforts that begin with today’s announcement, a multilingual online form will be released where families can answer a few questions to screen for eligibility. After that families are randomly selected to receive the cash payments.

  1. 4. How can the money be used? In any way families want. Families will receive $500 per month for 18 months, unconditionally, to use however they choose. They have the option of participating in periodic surveys and interviews, but are not required to.
  1. 5. When will this start? The goal is to begin payments to families this spring after incorporating more community feedback and to have the entire program up and running this summer.

Oakland Resilient Families began with a pledge to bring a guaranteed income program to Oakland when Mayor Libby Schaaf joined Mayors for a Guaranteed Income as a founding mayor in 2020. Mayors for a Guaranteed Income (MGI) grew out of the groundbreaking Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration (SEED) led by former Mayor Michael Tubbs.

MGI now convenes in dozens of cities across the country to support guaranteed income pilots. Oakland Resilient Families is not a city-run program but the partnership with MGI connects the initiative with dozens of other cities for research collaboration and technical assistance.

In preliminary results released earlier this month, gathered from Feb. 2019 to Feb. 2020, SEED found recipients obtained full-time employment at more than twice the rate of non-recipients. Recipients were less anxious and depressed, both over time and compared to the control group. They also saw statistically significant improvements in emotional health, fatigue levels and overall well-being.

"One of my hopes in testing out a guaranteed income is that other cities would follow suit, and I'm thrilled that Oakland is among the first. I applaud Mayor Schaaf's leadership and am looking forward to working with her to move from pilot to policy," said former Stockton Mayor and Founder of Mayors for a Guaranteed Income, Michael Tubbs. "By focusing on BIPOC residents, the Oakland Resilient Families program will provide critical financial support to those hardest hit by systemic inequities, including the pandemic's disproportionate toll on communities of color."

The project team includes Oakland-based national non-profit Family Independence Initiative (FII) as the implementing partner and Oakland Thrives provides backbone support and coordination. FII was founded in Oakland 20 years ago with the belief that that society has underestimated the potential and resourcefulness of communities with limited income to improve their own financial and general well-being. FII uses technology to facilitate families in accessing cash and supporting one another in achieving mobility -- working with over 200,000 households nationally with $140 million in unrestricted cash transfers since the pandemic reached the U.S.

“When people say ‘How do we solve poverty in America?’ The reality is that families solve poverty everyday,” said Jesus Gerena, CEO, Family Independence Initiative. “FII is proud to deepen our partnership with Oakland families in our hometown through Oakland Resilient Families.”

In partnership with local community organizations and government leaders, Oakland Resilient Families will continue incorporating community feedback on design and implementation. Opportunities will include multilingual outreach, socially distanced in-person and online presentations, tabling at community events, and focus groups with eligible families compensated for their time.

“As a Council representative for East Oakland, an area that faces many challenges including economic disparities and historic underinvestment, I am excited to see this innovative program come to Oakland,” said Councilmember Loren Taylor. “While traditional outreach often comes up short - failing to effectively engage those with the most need, I am ready to help lead a more effective community engagement process to bring hope and relief to those who have not had the chance to benefit from the same prosperity and opportunities in Oakland.”

Oakland Resilient Families is 100% funded through philanthropic donations anchored by an investment from Blue Meridian Partners’ Place Matters portfolio, which aims to improve economic and social mobility in communities across the US through investments both in place-based partnerships and in supports to catalyze their success. These investments go towards transformative upstream initiatives like the guaranteed income pilot, cradle-to-career education supports through the Oakland Promise, and systems change work across the city, county, and school district through Oakland Thrives.

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