San Francisco is not launching a basic income pilot yet

By: Sean Kline, Director of the San Francisco Office of Financial Empowerment

There is a lot of interest in basic income, and whether it could transform income inequality. The Office of Financial Empowerment (OFE)’s interest in basic income is a direct extension of its broader concern for economic security and intergenerational poverty.

Never heard of the OFE? We are the folks behind Kindergarten to College, the first and largest universal child savings program of its kind in the country now serving 27,000 public school children; Smart Money Coaching, which delivers financial coaching to low-income people at 27 sites across San Francisco; Summer Jobs Connect, which equips youth with a bank account, financial education, and strategies to save during summer employment; Bank On, which helps low-income residents access safe accounts at responsible banks and credit unions; and policy efforts to fight predatory financial practices and help families build assets.

Given the powerful evidence for cash transfers, both domestically and internationally, the OFE recently began exploring whether a basic income demonstration in San Francisco could add evidence to policy debates about reducing income inequality and increasing financial security. Here is what action we are taking:

  • Actively participating in the Economic Security Project
  • Planning a convening of UBI experimenters in Fall 2017
  • Seeking funding to conduct a pilot in San Francisco and potentially with other cities across the country.
  • Designing basic income demonstrations to pilot test

The OFE has engaged in thoughtful conversations inside and outside of city government to understand what such a demonstration could look like and what type of new research would be most helpful to inform policy. The OFE is not embarking on any proposal at this moment, but continues to explore when and how to launch a demonstration. In 2016, the OFE joined a three-city consortium to submit a proposal to the MacArthur Foundation for $100 million to fund the first large-scale basic income demonstration in the United States. While unsuccessful in this funding effort, the OFE has continued to explore smaller research demonstrations of a basic income at a cost of between $5 million and $30 million.

Reviewed by Kate McFarland

Image: San Francisco, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 Florent Lamoureux

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