NEWARK, NJ - The City of Newark 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 Wednesday.

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.

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Universal basic income is a cash benefit that could come in several different forms, but is generally a government-funded program that provides residents a guaranteed source of income. 

The idea has also been floated by Newark’s former mayor, and current Democratic presidential hopeful Cory Booker. Booker, who also serves as one of New Jersey's United States senators, 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 that would select 15 local areas to guarantee residents a job that generally pays at least $15 an hour.

Baraka, who 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. 

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