Above Photo: Santa Fe, NM. Shutterstock.
New Mexico could become the second state to implement a statewide universal basic income program.
The city of Santa Fe is testing out universal basic income, or guaranteed monthly payments, for 100 parents under the age of 30 who attend Santa Fe Community College. They’ll get $400 monthly payments, also known as a “stability stipend,” for a year, and if that local pilot program goes well, lawmakers are considering moving forward with a similar statewide proposal.
“I think that $400 is a heckuva lot of money to a heckuva lot of people in this state,” Albuquerque Rep. Antonio Maestas said during a committee hearing on Monday.
Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber, who testified at the hearing, expressed support for guaranteed monthly payments, saying that they are “exactly what we need to break the cycle of poverty.”
A growing number of cities are testing out universal basic income for targeted groups of residents. For example, upstate New York is testing out a one year program giving 100 residents $500 monthly payments for a year, with Chicago, Boston, St. Paul and others having implemented similar programs.
Last month, California approved the nation’s first statewide guaranteed income program, giving up to $1,000 monthly checks prioritized to pregnant people and those aging out of the foster care system.
As universal basic income is rising in prominence, some Democratic lawmakers want it to become a permanent feature of America’s economy.
After the pandemic spurred Congress to approve three stimulus checks for Americans, some Democrats called to continue those checks well beyond the end of the pandemic, and in late March, amid infrastructure negotiations, 21 Democratic senators urged President Joe Biden in a letter to include recurring direct payments in his infrastructure plan, saying that when checks ran out after the CARES Act, poverty rose.
A report from the Economic Security Project in April also found that fourth and fifth rounds of stimulus checks could cut the number of Americans in poverty in 2021 to 16 million from 44 million while helping close imbalances in poverty, income, and wealth between white Americans and Americans of color.
“This crisis is far from over, and families deserve certainty that they can put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads,” the Democrats wrote in their March letter. “Families should not be at the mercy of constantly-shifting legislative timelines and ad hoc solutions.”