Dec 10, 2020 - Politics & Policy

One to watch: Mayor Michael Tubbs, pioneer of guaranteed income

Mayor Michael Tubbs of Stockton, California.
Mayor Michael Tubbs of Stockton, California in his office in February. (Photo by NICK OTTO/AFP via Getty Images)

The news this week that Jack Dorsey of Twitter donated an additional $15 million to a group of 29 mayors who want to pilot guaranteed monthly income programs in their cities cast a spotlight on Michael Tubbs, the 30-year-old mayor of Stockton, California, who founded Mayors for a Guaranteed Income in June.

The big picture: Tubbs, who grew up in poverty and graduated from Stanford, created the first municipal program to provide a guaranteed stipend in February 2019, giving 125 households in Stockton $500 a month.

  • The effort was funded by the Economic Security Project, a brainchild of Chris Hughes of Facebook.
  • Tubbs was endorsed by former President Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey in his 2017 mayoral run, and he's close with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang (of universal basic income fame).

What he's saying: "Mayors for a Guaranteed Income came about as a response to COVID-19 and also a response to the protest the Black Lives Matter protests in the summer," Tubbs tells Axios.

  • "People weren't just protesting police brutality — they were protesting the violence of poverty and the violence of lack of opportunity."
  • Tubbs approached his fellow mayors in the spring saying, "Look, this is an opportunity for us to go big for our constituents — to say that they deserve an income floor — and to push our country forward."

In the Stockton pilot — now nearly two years old — "We found our folks spent money on food and utilities and rent and things of that sort, and not on frivolous expenses," Tubbs said. "We've also found that people are healthier" because they have less stress.

What's next: The latest grant from Dorsey (who gave Tubbs' group $3 million in July), will fund guaranteed income pilots in a growing roster of cities, like Los Angeles, New Orleans, and Pittsburgh.

What to watch: Tubbs himself was defeated in November and is making plans for when he leaves office in January.

  • "I have no idea what my title will be in the traditional sense, but I know I will be advocating for everyone in this country to be treated with basic human dignity," he says.

Go deeper: Twitter's Dorsey gives $15 million for guaranteed income projects in U.S. cities

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