What is UBI ?

What is UBI?

Universal BasIc Income. All three words are important. Universal – available to everyone.  No qualifying or disqualifying factors. Basic – —Enough to live on, either on its own or with another income source. Income – it’s money.

Different groups have different definitions of how much money it provides: some say it should provide a sufficiently generous cash benefit to live on, without other earnings; others say it disburses cash benefits, without making commitments about whether by itself it provides enough to live on. All groups agree that it provides the same benefit to everyone, no matter what their other income is. That is, it is not means-tested.

What is Guaranteed Minimum Income ?

Guaranteed Minimum Income raises households’ private income to a pre-determined income threshold. This means that for each additional dollar of earnings, the minimum income cash benefit would be reduced. Unlike UBI, it is means-tested, and so different people receive different benefits, and many receive no benefit.

What is a UBI pilot ?

Unlike a full UBI program, pilots are typically targeted at specific groups. In addition to having the goal of helping the recipients in the pilot, they often also have goals to monitor the ways in which UBI does or does not help people. For example, a pilot could be used to test the hypothesis that children would be more likely to obtain higher levels of education if the family receives UBI ?

Are there any UBI pilots in the US right now ?

Yes. For example, Stockton CA has been running a pilot since 2018 paying $500 a month to 125 low-income residents. And in Washington DC, there is a privately-funded program paying $1,100 to 300 household for 5 months

Where can I learn more ?

There are two very informative reports: in 2018 the Washington DC Council produced a report about Approaches and Strategies for Providing a Minimum Income in the District of Columbia, and in 2019 the National Bureau of Economic Research produced a report about Universal Basic Income In The US And Advanced Countries.

You can read more about UBI at the Mayors for a Guaranteed Income, and at the UBI Lab Network.

Which do we pursue:Universal Basic Income or Guaranteed Income?

Universal Basic Income implies everyone would receive a payment regardless of their financial status; joining Mayors For a Guaranteed Income is a commitment to exploring to what extent guaranteed income should be provided to everyone or to a targeted group. The DC UBI coalition is committed to a process of targeted guaranteed income and to exploring other measures for ensuring that everyone is eligible for a guaranteed income should they need it.

What is the impact of direct payments on the existing safety net benefits of recipients? 

This is an urgent policy issue that we are exploring, and we believe that there are measures and support for measures to mitigate and indeed eliminate negative impacts. We welcome your involvement in our study of these issues and your support for advocacy to make the needed policy changes to address them.

Who should receive UBI funds?

We support a racially equitable selection process to fund multiple UBI pilots in DC. Pilot programs provide money to a select group of people as a test of their impact on people’s welfare.

Who should fund guaranteed income pilots? Why are we asking the Mayor to be involved?

We support the use of private sources, in the short term, to fund direct cash pilots, and public funding, in the future, toward a broader guaranteed income strategy. We ground our advocacy in collaboration, racial equity, and sustainable decision-making across coalitions of residents, allied groups, and stakeholders.