Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Picture credit to: Fox 32

As the corona virus crisis unfolds, the political atmosphere heats up in the United States. At the Capitol, a 2 trillion dollar bill is in the making, specifically to deal with the economic downturn caused by the epidemic.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC), the Democrat Representative of the Bronx constituency in New York City, already called for measures like paid leave, debt relief, waiving work requirements, guaranteeing healthcare, universal basic income (UBI) and detention relief. She has recognized that the current bill under discussion is, indeed, partly unconditional (around 500 billion dollars), although she has shown concerns that this money may not reach those more in need of it, but go to large corporations which are seeing their profits plummet at this point.

AOC had already shown simpathy for the basic income policy in the recent past, although in an ambivalent manner. In the face of a “systemic [economic] shock” the corona virus crisis is creating, however, she has again reached for the UBI, at least as an emergency economic measure. That idea, in fact, has motivated more than 500 academics, public figures and (basic income) advocates to call for such a policy, which was manifested in a public letter.

Even on the Republican side of Congress, this kind of approach is getting support. Republican Senator Mitt Romney has said that “urgent action on additional coronavirus response measures [are] aimed at providing economic relief for working Americans and families.” Others, like Congressmen Tim Ryan and Ro Khanna, plus Tulsi Gabbard, have also very recently proposed legislation that will allow the distribution of (unconditional) checks onto people’s hands, resembling the idea Andrew Yang had been proposing for most of his Presidential Campaign. The Congress Financial Services Committee, as a matter of fact, is aiming to release legislation, as part of the 2 trillion dollar bill rollout, that would put an immediate 2000 US$ in the hands of every American, with an additional 1000 US$ for every child.

Even as the crisis unfolds, critics worry that the basic income policy, even applied over this context, maybe too expensive, while remaining senseless to pay a 1000 $/month for the duration of the contention/recession to billionaires. AOC replies to both those fears shortly and concisely: that (given the situation) it should really be more, and that there is no need to means-test when it can be taxed back (from the relatively more wealthy) in the next fiscal year.

More information at:

CNN Politics “AOC’s message to young people on coronavirus” video

MSNBC, “AOC on coronavirus rescue bill” video

AOC: We need universal healthcare, basic income to fight coronavirus“, Jerusalem Post, March 20th 2020

Soomi Lee, “Why an emergency Universal Basic Income makes sense during the Covid-19 pandemic“, London School of Economics (US Centre),

Abby Vesoulis, “‘I’ll Be a Very Happy Man.’ Will the Coronavirus Outbreak Turn Andrew Yang’s $1,000 Promise Into Reality?“, TIME, March 17th 2020

Why more than 500 political figures and academics globally have called for universal basic income in the fight against coronavirus“, Letter published by the Independent, March 18th 2020

About Andre Coelho

André Coelho has written 367 articles.

Activist. Engineer. Musician. For the more beautiful world our hearts know it's possible.