The Alaska Permenent Fund (APF), which started in 1982 to give all Alaskans a share of its oil revenue, is as close to a basic income by BIEN’s definition as has been achieved world-wide. It is paid to each individual regardless of age, without means tests or other conditions, and regularly every year, although the level differs depending on how the APF’s investments do that year. It has inspired campaigns in many other countries, including Mongolia, South Africa and Goa, to share the profits from resource extraction as a basic income to all citizens. The AFP is under particular threat at the moment as a result of recent deficits in the State’s budget, which legislators want to plug by taking the payments away from Alaska’s citizens.
BIEN News will be interviewing activists from AFPD about the situation and their demands soon, but in the meantime people can support their campaign via their GoFundMe page. More information about their campaign and the history of the fund can be found on their website.
With the theme, ‘From the COVID-19 Disaster to New Great Transition, Basic Income!’ the 3rd annual Basic Income International Conference was held in Gyeonggi Provence, South Korea, 28-29 April 2021. Hosted by the Gyeonggi Provincial Government, and organised by Gyeonggi Research Institute (GRI), Gyeonggi-do Market Revitalization Agency (GMRA), KINTEX, and the Basic Income Korean Network (BIKN), it featured panel talks and discussion by many researchers from BIEN, including Chair Sarath Davala, Hyosang Ahn, Philippe Van Parijs, Guy Standing, Annie Miller, Troy Henderson, Louise Haagh, Almaz Zelleke, Julio Linares, Roberto Merrill among others. Economist Joseph Stiglitz gave a keynote speech on the second day.
From the website: The PhD project is part of the larger Basic Income research project that studies how basic income is potentially linked with nature protection and tackling climate change, and how these possible linkages can be addressed in an embedded social-ecological context that is highly relevant for climate stabilization and reversing biodiversity loss at planetary scale and, at the same time, enhancing human well-being. A context that is well-represented in jurisdictions that are rich in forest ecosystem and biodiversity yet with poor population as observed in the provinces in Indonesia where tropical rainforests remain intact such as those in Papua.
In the long-term, part of the project aims to explore a multi-year basic income scheme for nature and climate and undertake necessary trial in a pilot jurisdiction at appropriate scale. Rigorous scientific monitoring and evaluation should be in place for this to assess social and ecological impacts and derive lessons for potential upscaling in other jurisdictions. A policy dialogue (at sub-national, national, and international levels) about the scientific results from the intended study on basic income for nature and climate is to be initiated to prepare the grounds to achieve the purpose. Together with the team at FRIBIS, the PhD position is expected to contribute to providing science-informed insights related to a basic income for nature and climate in the target jurisdiction. Under a joint research initiative, the PhD candidate will be supervised by Professor Dr.rer.oec. Bernhard Neumärker at the University of Freiburg and Dr.rer.pol. Sonny Mumbunan at the University of Indonesia and in close collaboration with teams and members at FRIBIS, and at GIZ.
Mark Drakeford, Wales’ new First Minister, announced soon after the Senedd elections in May that the government will launch a basic income trial in the country. As Basic Income News mentioned over a month ago, the support for trialing basic income in the country has greatly increased and Drakeford has confirmed that a pilot will be launched soon.
Jane Hutt, recently appointed as Minister for Social Justice, will be in charge of the supervision of the project. There is still no definitive information regarding the funding and date of implementation of the pilot, but the government’s commitment is firm. “A basic income pilot is one of the specific responsibilities of our new social justice minister. It will have to be carefully designed, it will draw on the experience of attempted pilots in Scotland, but I have a very long standing interest in basic income”, Drakeford said. “We’ll do it on a cross-party basis. There are 25 members of the Senedd in different parties who have expressed an interest in it,” he added.
The Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, Sophie Howes, said that the launching of the pilot shows an “incredibly significant commitment by the First Minister to tackling Wales’ poverty and health inequalities,” and that this trial shows that small countries can lead big policy changes.
Jonathan Rhys Williams, from UBI Lab Wales, said that “this is a huge moment for the basic income movement in the UK and around the world.”
A new guaranteed income program has just been announced in the US, this time in the country’s second largest city, Los Angeles. In his proposed budget for the fiscal year 2021-2022, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti included a $24-million guaranteed basic income project that would see 2,000 families in the city receive an unconditional $1,000 per month for one year. Dubbed “BIG: LEAP” (Basic Income Guaranteed: L.A. Economic Assistance Pilot), the program is one of the biggest of its kind in the US. The announcement was made at the end of April when the city budget proposed for the financial year starting 1 July 2021 was unveiled, the budget is usually approved by the beginning of June.
The details of the plan are being finalised, but the Mayor has confirmed that the payment would be truly unconditional with participants in the program able to use the money however they please. There will be eligibility criteria however such as being at or below the federal poverty line (annual income of $12,880 for a single individual / $17,420 for two persons) and, most likely, supporting a child under the age of 18 and demonstrating financial or medical hardship connected to COVID-19. Immigration status, on the other hand, will not constitute a selection criteria. It also seems that the income will go to households and not individuals.
If approved, BIG: LEAP will be the latest in a series of city-led guaranteed income programs in the country. Jackson, Mississippi in 2018 and Stockton, California in 2019 with the launch of “SEED” (Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration) paved the way and over the past two years, cities as diverse as Oakland (CA), Patterson (NJ), Denver (CO), Chicago (IL), Gary (IN) and many more across the country have announced or implemented some form of guaranteed income programs.
And these efforts do not occur only at a city level. In Southern California alone, in addition to BIG: LEAP or the pilot implemented in Compton (Compton Pledge), the L.A. County Board of Supervisors has just passed two separate motions asking relevant staff in the administration to design a guaranteed income program for targeted county residents. These first designs are due within 60 days of the motions, i.e. by the third week of July (motion 1; motion 2). Within the city of Los Angeles there are also specific guaranteed income pilots in the South LA and Downtown districts.
Map: main city-led guaranteed income pilots in the US and network of “Mayors for a Guaranteed Income”
Note: programs vary from one city to the next (eligibility criteria, payment amount, duration). Some of the programs that have been announced are yet to be formally approved and started. The map also does not include other initiatives such as, for instance, the payment under the Alaska Permanent Fund which has sometimes been compared to a basic income. (Map by the author, sources: Mashable.com and Mayors for a Guaranteed Income)
Eligibility criteria vary in each city as do the amount of the cash payment or the duration of the experiment but at any rate, the multiplication of the number of programs in progress is indicative of the growing interest for basic income in the US. The COVID crisis is certainly a factor behind this growing momentum. One of the potential eligibility criteria outlined by Mayor Garcetti in his proposal for the experiment in L.A. directly relates to the pandemic. San Francisco has designed a program targeted at artists hit by the crisis and other cities have referenced the impacts of COVID-19 on the economic situation as one of the factors behind their interest for basic income.
Many of these city-led efforts are being supported by Mayors for a Guaranteed Income (MGI), a nation-wide network of mayors founded by former Stockton Mayor and initiator of the SEED program, Michael D. Tubbs. It is supported by various foundations and non-profit organisations such as the Economic Security Project (involved in the Stockton experiment) or the Jain Family Institute (involved in Compton or in a proposed scheme in Newark, NJ). Indeed, whilst these various programs are first a way to alleviate poverty in specific communities and are only local in nature, they are also seen as experiments that will add to the debate around basic income at the federal level.
A Pew survey conducted in August 2020 concluded that 54% of Americans oppose or strongly oppose a federal universal basic income.* Proponents of these programs are hoping that the experiments they are conducting will add to the growing body of evidence that unconditional cash transfers not only help to alleviate poverty, but also improve physical and mental wellbeing and, importantly, that they do not remove incentives for people to work. More generally they are hoping that they will contribute to changing the narrative around poverty and economic insecurity.
*Online survey of 11,001 US adults conducted between July 27 and August 2, 2020, results vary across age groups, ethnicity, political affiliations, and income groups.