Media contact to speak with a family participating in the pilot:
Oakland, California (February 9, 2022) — When Alisha Roe first got the email notifying her she was selected to participate in the Oakland Resilient Families Guaranteed Income Pilot, she thought it was a scam. It wasn’t until she got the prepaid card in the mail that her skepticism waned.
“I still didn’t believe it until I had gotten like two months worth of money in my account. Then I knew it was real,” said longtime East Oakland resident Roe, who has received $500 monthly since July as part of the pilot.
Roe’s family is one of 300 selected last summer as part of phase 1 of Oakland Resilient Families — one of the largest GI pilots in the country. Now, an additional 300 households selected from a citywide pool last month for phase 2 are starting to receive their first of 18 monthly payments.
All told, 600 families in Oakland now receive a guaranteed income through Oakland Resilient Families, marking one of the nation’s largest demonstrations of guaranteed income as fully operational.
Some, like Roe, will receive their payments through a physical prepaid card. Others will get their cash through a direct deposit or a virtual prepaid card, whichever option they prefer.
For many families, access to a total of $9,000 — which they can use however they’d like — is life-changing and a bridge away from debt-inducing cycles that can stunt economic growth in historically under-served communities.
“I’ve been able to erase some financial burdens,” said Roe. “I was drowning and my (credit) score was awful. This helped me build my credit back up and it also allowed me to really focus on doing more outreach… I also started a college fund for my grandson.”
The Oakland Resilient Families pilot is a collaboration between the nonprofit UpTogether, Oakland Thrives, and Mayors for Guaranteed Income (MGI) — a partnership formed to fulfill Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf’s pledge to bring a guaranteed income program to the city when she joined MGI as a founding mayor.
“We’re proud to see our pilot operating at full strength to assist Oakland families and yet we know there is more work to do to change the systems that create poverty and the narratives that perpetuate it,” said Mayor Schaaf. “Poverty is not a personal failure, it’s a policy failure, and in Oakland we are proving we can change those policies to deliver the most basic needs for our most vulnerable residents.”
At a press conference in October to announce the launch of phase 2 of the Oakland pilot, MGI founder and former Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs addressed criticism that providing a guaranteed income disincentivizes people from working.
"What we've seen from these pilots is that people don't stop working. People are just able to negotiate the type of work conditions they can tolerate,” said Tubbs. “People don't get lazy. People actually become more productive and are able to pay for childcare or to get their car fixed or do the things necessary to get to work. People are able to leave part-time jobs and work a full-time job."
To ensure a fair and equitable selection process, the 600 participating households in the Oakland Resilient Families pilot were chosen through two random lotteries of eligible applicants — one lottery for each phase. Phase 2 participants were selected last month. That phase was open to anyone who lives in Oakland, has a child living in the home, and an annual household income of no more than 138% of the Federal Poverty Line.
There were similar eligibility requirements for the Phase 1 launch except the household income requirement was at or below 50% of the area median income, and you had to live in one of five East Oakland census tracts — roughly one square mile in City Council Districts 6 and 7. The purpose of keeping the geographic footprint small is to examine the impact direct cash has not only on individual households, but on the broader community, too.
“Community is why UpTogether exists,” said UpTogether CEO Jesús Gerena. “The way people in historically under-resourced communities come together and collaborate to help each other inspired our founder 20 years ago to invest in their initiatives, starting here in Oakland. Since then, we’ve learned that the combination of community, capital, and the choice for individuals to use those dollars how they see fit is one of the best paths to socioeconomic mobility. We are excited to see the impact this guaranteed income pilot has on the broader Oakland community.”
The pilot was intentionally designed to address the greatest wealth disparities in the city. According to the Oakland Equity Index, 26% of African Americans, 22% of Latinos, and 15% of Asians live at or below the Federal Poverty Line, compared to 8% of Whites.
For the households randomly selected for Oakland Resilient Families, 43% of the 600 participants identify as Black or African American and 38% as Hispanic or Latino. 7% are Asian.
Participants are also overwhelmingly female, with nearly 83%. Complete snapshots of the racial and gender demographics are below.
East Oakland mother Gabriella Ek said her $500 payouts are helping her get through a rough stretch. She’s lived in Oakland her entire life and has seen countless friends suffer trying to make ends meet. Now she’s able to focus more of her energy on family and future.
“I have a 3-year-old son. I moved out of my parents’ house, started…entrepreneurship, and [am] trying to deal with a lot,” she said. “So I would like to put my input into the community to make it a little bit better for the future of my children.”
Oakland Resilient Families is 100% funded through philanthropic donations.
To learn more, visit oaklandresilientfamilies.org.