Guaranteed Cash Payments to Become a Reality for Some Tacoma Residents Facing Poverty


Tacoma residents facing poverty soon will benefit from cash payments through a guaranteed income pilot program.

Mayor Victoria Woodards announced Tuesday that Tacoma is one of more than 25 cities across the country to benefit from a $15 million donation made by Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to Mayors for a Guaranteed Income (MGI). Woodards is a founding member of the group.

Tacoma's cut of the donation is $500,000, on top of $100,000 in funding from MGI that City Council accepted last week in partnership with United Way of Pierce County.

"We're grateful for this generous grant that will allow us to accelerate our pilot building, and we are excited that we will soon be able to offer support to the Tacoma community members who need it the most," Woodards said in a statement.

Woodards told The News Tribune there are still details to iron out, including what thresholds need to be met for people to apply, how to apply and how to track the effectiveness of the program.

The goal is to announce the work plan for the pilot by March, she said.

Mayors for a Guaranteed Income was launched over the summer by Stockton, California Mayor Michael Tubbs, with other cities across the country already implementing their pilot programs. St. Paul, Minnesota, is providing up to 150 families with $500 per month in guaranteed income for up to 18 months. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania will provide 200 residents with $500 per month for 24 months.

At a City Council meeting on Tuesday, Woodards said that providing guaranteed income will help United Way reach its goal of eradicating poverty and supporting ALICE families.

"We are thrilled that we're going to be able to take this half a million dollars and offer support to ALICE in Tacoma in the very near future," Woodards said.

ALICE is an acronym for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed — in other words, households that earn more than the Federal Poverty Level, but less than the basic cost of living. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the 2020 poverty guideline was $26,200 for a family of four.

United Way data from 2016 shows 31 percent of households in Pierce County are considered ALICE.

"That means people who wake up every single day and go to work but at the end of the day don't know if they'll have enough money to put food on the table for their families," said Woodards, who said she also grew up in an ALICE household.

Woodards said she hopes to leverage the donation to seek matching dollars from other organizations, and has already been approached by two foundations. No city or public dollars will be used to fund the project, she said.


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