Mayor Frey announces guaranteed income program ahead of election

The pilot program will give 200 families $500 per month over the course of two full years.

Jacob Frey/Flickr

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey joined city leaders Wednesday in announcing a pilot version of a guaranteed basic income (GBI) program.

The announcement comes just days before Minneapolis city elections in which the mayor’s office is on the ballot. Frey is seeking reelection to a second term.

A city government news release said the pilot program will give 200 families $500 per month over the course of two full years. It is intended to be a trial run for any “future city initiatives,” and it will also serve as a test case for a growing body of research on GBI.

The news release adds that investment in the pilot program stems from $3 million in funding via the American Rescue Plan Act, the $1.9 trillion stimulus bill signed into law by President Joe Biden in March.

“The pandemic has exacerbated racial economic disparities in Minneapolis and the communities most impacted have been front and center in the creation of the Minneapolis GBI program,” Mayor Frey said in a statement. “We used a data-driven approach to create this pilot and get cash assistance in the hands of families that need it most in their time of need. This illustrates our continued commitment to directly supporting the unique needs and individual situations facing the most vulnerable families in our city.”

Sometime before the end of the year Minneapolis city leaders will roll out program applications for families interested in participating. According to the news release, eligible households must have been financially affected by the COVID pandemic, reside in one of the city’s nine lowest-income zip codes, and take home no more than 50% of the city’s median income.

Families accepted to participate in the program will receive their first $500 payment in the spring of 2022. Payments will continue each month until the spring of 2024.

“Using an income ceiling of twice the federal poverty guideline, we hope to show that GBI can give the financial stability to low-income residents to allow them to pursue education and job training, pay for reliable childcare, or simply provide financial flexibility,” said Erik Hansen, Minneapolis’ director of economic policy and development.

As for other Minneapolis political figures, Rep. Ilhan Omar has long been a notable supporter of a guaranteed income. In July she introduced the Sending Unconditional Payments to People Overcoming Resistances to Triumph (SUPPORT) Act, which would give families in “hundreds of communities” nationwide $1,200 each month from 2023-27. The proposal would cost around $2.5 billion.