OAKLAND (CBS SF) – Low-income Oakland residents may be getting some much-needed cash every month to help make ends meet during the coronavirus pandemic.

Mayor Libby Schaaf is joining mayors from ten other cities to launch a universal basic income pilot program. The program similar to the one in Stockton where Mayor Michael Tubbs started giving $500 a month to 125 residents.

Stockton has been such a success that Mayor Libby Schaaf has signed up to bring that program to Oakland.

“I said ‘are you in,’ and she said, ‘I’m down,’” said Mayor Tubbs.

Mayor Schaaf said it was an easy sell because she has seen many in her community struggle to make ends meet during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s really showing how fragile Americans are in their wealth and it’s showing just how big these racial disparities are,” said Schaaf.

According to Mayors for Guaranteed Income, a coalition of eleven city leaders, nearly 40 percent of Americans cannot afford a $400 emergency and the racial wealth gap is growing. The median net worth of white households is 10 times that of Black households and 8 times that of Latinx households.

With the universal basic income program, the mayors hope the government can help bridge that gap.

“The government has to correct the harms it has caused. It can’t do everything and it shouldn’t do everything but when government has caused harm, then the government has a role in rectifying that,” said Tubbs.

During the pandemic, 46 percent of Stockton residents used most of the money on groceries, according to Tubbs. Data for the 18-month pilot program has shown how Oaklanders can also benefit from a guaranteed income program.

“This money is not getting wasted. It is literally giving people the most basic level of economic security for their families,” said Schaff.

The program for Oakland is still in the developmental stage. Mayor Schaaf says she’s reached out to philanthropy for funding, just like Stockton has had to do to extend its program for the next 6 months.

“Do what we did in Stockton,” said Tubbs. “Try it. You try it and you’ll be like ‘oh wow.’ People spend money like how I spend money because people are people.”

The guaranteed income comes with no strings attached and no work requirements but only 2 percent of recipients in Stockton are unemployed.

Mayor Schaaf will talk about universal basic income program on her weekly virtual town hall meeting on Thursday. Mayor Tubbs is expected to join her to answer questions from the community.

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