TACOMA, Wash. — After Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards joined 10 other mayors across the nation in June 2020 to sign on as a founding member of Mayors for a Guaranteed Income – a group which has since grown to 30 mayors committed to collaboratively exploring guaranteed income pilot programs in their local communities – Tacoma has become eligible to receive a grant of $100,000 to begin this work.
A guaranteed income is a monthly cash payment given directly to individuals. It is unconditional, with no strings attached and no work requirements. It is meant to supplement, rather than replace, the existing social safety net and can help foster racial and gender equity.
With approval of Resolution 40707, the Tacoma City Council has authorized acceptance of this grant funding and named United Way as the primary administrator of initial program research and design. Acceptance of this grant funding does not obligate the City of Tacoma to stand up a pilot.
“It is especially important to be a responsible steward of City dollars during this time of economic uncertainty, and I am committed to exploring options for a pilot program that would utilize no local tax dollars,” said Mayor Woodards. “During this time of economic hardship for so many, a guaranteed income program could provide immediate assistance to Tacoma families in need while gathering real-time data about a potential tool that could address poverty in an innovative, comprehensive way at the federal level going forward.”
Mayor Woodards began convening community partners in July 2020 – including United Way, Sound Outreach, Tacoma Urban League, Greater Tacoma Community Foundation, and Tacoma Housing Authority – for early discussions on what a guaranteed income pilot program could look like in Tacoma. At-Large Tacoma City Council Member Kristina Walker joined on as a champion of the initiative this fall.
“COVID-19 has brought to light how little of a safety net exists for many in our community when the unexpected strikes,” said Council Member Walker. “In cooperation with cities across the nation, data from these initial efforts could reveal the effectiveness of guaranteed income as a tool for helping those who are now struggling to survive the public health and economic impacts of the current pandemic which has disproportionately affected Black and Brown community members. I look forward to working with the team of community leaders to design a program that works for Tacoma and leverages our public-private partnerships.”
In the United States, wealth and income inequality have reached historic highs. Nearly 40 percent of Americans cannot afford a single $400 emergency, and rising income inequality is compounded by a growing racial wealth gap. The median White worker made 28 percent more than the typical Black worker, and 35 percent more than the median Latinx worker in the last quarter of 2019. According to 2017 data released by the Federal Reserve, the median wealth of White families is $171,000 while the median wealth of Black families is less than 15 percent of White families at $17,600.
Mayors for a Guaranteed Income is an effort to realize Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s economic dream. The coalition is committed to advocacy in favor of cash-based policies and exploring guaranteed income programs. The lessons learned from local pilots across the nation will be aggregated and used to inform federal policy work.