Up to 150 St. Paul families could start getting $500 monthly payments this fall as part of an 18-month guaranteed income experiment directed toward residents of the city's poorest neighborhoods.
Mayor Melvin Carter signed an executive order Thursday establishing the People's Prosperity Guaranteed Income Pilot, which will provide cash payments to randomly selected families in four ZIP codes. To be selected for the $1.5 million program, which will be paid for with federal CARES Act and philanthropic dollars, families will have to demonstrate financial hardship resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The city will select families already enrolled in the college savings account program, which launched in January and provides $50 to every child born in St. Paul. The idea, Carter said at a City Hall news conference, is to see how the two programs work in tandem and make the case that a guaranteed monthly income can help lift people out of poverty.
"For some, I know that a guaranteed income may sound like a far-fetched or even a radical idea," he said. "But in reality, mayors across this country know too many in our community were already struggling long before this pandemic, and we know this ongoing pandemic will continue to create pain points for those families."
Carter is one of more than two dozen mayors who have agreed to advocate for the government payments at the local, state and federal levels as part of the national Mayors for a Guaranteed Income. The St. Paul pilot is similar to a program in Stockton, Calif., whose mayor, Michael Tubbs, is the group's founder and a friend of Carter.
The St. Paul City Council will have to approve the use of CARES Act money for the pilot, as well as an extension of the executive order to stretch the full 18 months. The city got $23.5 million in CARES money from the state, and it must be spent by mid-November.
On Thursday, Council President Amy Brendmoen and Council Member Mitra Jalali stood alongside Carter and pledged their support.
"I support a guaranteed income pilot because I see it as one way we can offer stability in the most unstable year that I can remember of my human life," Jalali said.
Brendmoen said she believes a guaranteed income program belongs at the county, state or federal level, but that city officials can't wait for that to happen.
"We have stepped up for a minimum wage, we have stepped up with tenant protections," she said. "We are stepping up now with a guaranteed income pilot project."
For more information and updates about the program, visit stpaul.gov/prosperity.
Emma Nelson • 612-673-4509