NEW YORK – Although the $2 trillion relief package recently passed by Congress known as the “CARES Act” did not explicitly include universal basic income, debate surrounding the bill discussed the possibility of universal basic income or UBI, debate that former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang wants to rekindle following the CARES Act’s passage.
Yang’s nonprofit, Humanity Forward, is giving “micro-grants” of $250-500 each to “as many people as we can,” people adversely affected by COVID-19. They are also accepting donations to boost the fund.
Yang made the concept of UBI, an economic principle where the government gives cash payments directly to citizens in exchange for waiving certain monetary social services, a key part of his campaign platform during his run for the White House. In an e-mail on Tuesday from his non-profit Humanity Forward, Yang sees the assistance from the CARES Act as a good start, but urges more and asks for donations to those affected by COVID-19’s impact to the economy.
“We’re helping others support their child’s education, pay off medical bills, cover car payments, and empowering people to be able to walk away from an abusive relationship, whether at home or at work,” said Yang in the fundraising e-mail. “That’s what this fight is about: putting gains into the hands of families to get our economy working for us.”
Yang’s effort to provide real-world examples of UBI in action did not start with the current COVID-19 pandemic. In 2019, Yang gave $1,000 a month without any strings attached to several families to prove the efficacy of UBI, including one family in Goffstown.
While the CARES Act is set to provide $1,200 to most individuals over the next few weeks, it falls short of Yang’s proposals, providing limitations on income as well as limitations surrounding tax filing status.
No country has implemented UBI to date, although there have been several test programs outside of the U.S. The State of Alaska also has a program comparable to UBI, with dividends from petroleum companies being provided directly to state residents. Yang also used the Alaska example frequently during his campaign stops, citing personal data used without explicit permission by tech companies such as Google and Facebook as an equivalent to Alaska’s petroleum, only on a national and 21st century scale.