In late-May, King County Councilmember Dave Upthegrove announced his intention to push for a preliminary study into universal basic income. As for what that would look like in practice, he spoke to KIRO Radio’s Dave Ross to lay out some of the specifics.
Typically, universal basic income programs have been run by city governments, including a pilot starting this summer in Tacoma. Should King County eventually stand up its own version, it would represent a first-of-its-kind program operating at the county level. Upthegrove also believes that the primary goal should be to provide actionable data for larger-scale implementation.
“If this were a program that ends up making sense that it would work best at a national or at least state level, I think it’s an opportunity we have at the local level to do some of the analysis, maybe try a pilot, see what we learn from it, see what works, and what doesn’t work,” he described.
That aside, he also points out that it’s worthwhile to get creative with programs that could help address economic instability, the region’s ongoing homelessness crisis, and more, especially at the tail-end of the pandemic.
“Coming out of COVID as the pandemic is getting behind us, I think it really shined a light on the disparities we have in our society,” he noted. “… I just think, fundamentally, things need to change right now, and that the status quo isn’t enough.”
Tacoma’s own program is set to run for 12 months, distributing a monthly $500 stipend to roughly 100 families facing poverty. It will be funded from by a $500,000 donation from Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, and an additional $100,000 from the Mayors for Guaranteed Income group.
Because King County lacks similar donations of its own, Upthegrove hopes to include his proposal for a preliminary study in next month’s supplemental budget. He’s already had conversations with the council’s budget chair, who has “indicated a willingness to include it in her version of the budget.”
“I’m very optimistic it will be in the chair’s budget, and then hopefully get something back by the end of the year,” he predicted.
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