NEWARK, NJ - The city is exploring a pilot for a universal basic income program and will launch an exploratory task force to see if it’s feasible, Mayor Ras Baraka said during his state of the city address.
The Economic Security Project and the Jain Family Institute, two research groups that are backing research to better understand cash benefits, will help launch the task force. The mayor said universal basic income would be welcomed in Newark, where a third of the city still lives in poverty.
“We believe in universal basic income, especially in a time where studies have shown that families that have a crisis of just $400 in a month may experience a setback that may be difficult, even impossible to recover from,” Baraka said during his speech at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center.
Universal basic income is a cash benefit that could have several different forms, but it's generally a government-funded program that provides residents a guaranteed source of income.
The idea has also been floated around by Newark’s former mayor and current Democratic presidential hopeful Cory Booker. Booker, who is currently a United States senator, has introduced federal bills that would guarantee income in different ways.
One such bill would give every child born in the U.S. an "American Opportunity Account," which starts with $1,000. The government would then deposit up to $2,000 more into a child's account annually based on their family's income.
Booker also introduced a bill to establish a jobs pilot program -- one that would select 15 local areas to guarantee residents a job that generally pays at least $15 an hour.
This was Baraka's fifth state of the city address and it didn’t elaborate on the type of pilot program Newark is being eyed for or if it would tie in with any of Booker’s bills. The mayor did say, however, that Newark has “already received national recognition” for the program.
Baraka, who is was re-elected to his second term last year, also pointed to initiatives aimed at boosting employee ownership of Newark-based businesses. He also noted that a ribbon cutting will soon be held for Freedom Paper, an African-American owned paper company with employees re-entering the workforce after prison.