An upcoming basic income pilot will provide 15 single black mothers in Jackson, Mississippi, with a monthly income of $1,000 for a year.
While at least six major basic income initiatives have formed in North America, Europe, and Africa over the past few years, the Magnolia Mother’s Trust in Mississippi is the first pilot to focus on low-income black women. In general, universal basic income programs provide people with regular cash payments regardless of income level.
Mississippi is the poorest state in the country, and more than 80% of residents in Jackson are black. Nationwide, black women live in poverty at higher rates than almost any other group of Americans.
Magnolia Mother’s Trust, set to launch in December, is supported by Economic Security Project, a philanthropic network co-chaired by Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes and Peers.org co-founder Natalie Foster, among others. The pilot is being led by Aisha Nyandoro, the CEO of Springboard To Opportunities, which supports families living in affordable housing.
Nyandoro told Business Insider that while she would have liked to start with more than 15 participants, the need to fundraise before launching the pilot made that more difficult. Magnolia Mother’s Trust will contribute to the larger body of research on basic income, Nyandoro said, but she also hopes the pilot will help secure more funding for future projects. She wants to eventually run a three-year program with 100 families.
While the trial in Jackson is underway, Nyandoro said Springboard To Opportunities will examine whether the income makes a difference in participants’ lives and whether it leads to greater engagement in the local community.
In addition, the group will provide monthly opportunities for the mothers to connect with each other and receive leadership training. A social worker will be available for one-on-one counseling as well.
“Especially in these low-income communities, we know that there is a lot of instances there have been traumatic events and traumatic episodes that our families have had to deal with, unfortunately,” Nyandoro said.
The Jackson pilot will add to a growing number of basic income experiments around the world — some of which have recently been delayed or stopped for a variety of reasons.
Y Combinator, the largest startup accelerator in Silicon Valley, delayed its basic income study after a pilot in Oakland, California, partly because it needed to make sure participants did not lose any state benefits they were already receiving.
Earlier in the summer, the provincial government in Ontario, Canada, decided to end a three-year basic income pilot for 4,000 residents. Residents expressed shock and outrage at the program only lasting one year, and the Toronto Star reported in late August that the basic income will end in March 2019, one year earlier than promised.
Foster, the Economic Security Project co-chair, told Business Insider that it was disappointing to see the Ontario pilot end after a change in government leadership.
“Making sure that we are able to live up to the promises we make to people in the pilot is one of the most important things,” Foster said. “Certainly that’s part of any project that Economic Security Project takes on, is making sure we can fulfill what we promise.”
Economic Security Project has also pledged $1 million toward another basic income trial, a 100-person, 18-month pilot starting next year in Stockton, California.
Foster said while each of these pilots is set up differently, Springboard To Opportunities is a “perfect place” to run a basic income pilot because the organization has a lot of experience helping low-income people.
According to a 2018 report by the Federal Reserve Board, 40% of Americans are unable to cover an unexpected $400 expense, and a 2017 report by the Roosevelt Institute said a universal basic income would boost the American economy.
As Magnolia Mother’s Trust and the other trials produce results, Foster said more cities will likely begin running their own pilots.
“Aisha will show what’s possible in Jackson when single mothers have breathing room to make sure their child can go out for football because finally they can afford the uniforms, or not take the third job and be able to have just a little bit of extra time with their family,” Foster said. “I am really looking forward to the stories that will likely come from Jackson.”
Nyandoro said she and other basic income advocates are all learning from each other — running a pilot is like building and flying a plane at the same time, she said. The Jackson pilot, she said, will have enough funds raised before it begins, so participants won’t need to worry about losing their income early.
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