Jul 19, 2022 - News

Guaranteed income program to launch in Des Moines metro

Illustration of a ladder with hundred-dollar bills on the rungs.
Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

A guaranteed monthly income payment of up to $500 will be provided to 110 Des Moines metro participants.

State of play: The goal is to help low-income families better pull themselves out of poverty but the concept has been the subject of debate.

  • Advocates cite studies that show the cash guarantees are more efficient than programs that greatly dictate the terms of assistance.
  • Critics contend it gives people incentives to be less productive.

Catch up fast: MIHF is leading a coalition to launch the Central Iowa Basic Income Pilot project and is seeking federal pandemic allocations from local governments.

  • About $1.8 million of the program's nearly $2.5 million projected costs have been raised, Johnson said.
  • Public funds are being matched by private donors at a ratio of about 3-to-1, she said.

How it works: Participant recruitment from people living in Polk, Dallas or Warren counties is anticipated to take place in November.

  • The first of the payments will be issued in February.
  • The project will also follow a randomized control group of 140 other low-income people who will not receive the monthly stipend to compare against the outcomes of those receiving monthly payments.

Of note: Mental health and employment status of participants throughout the pilot is a component of the study, which is being led by the University of Pennsylvania's Center for Guaranteed Income Research.

Outcomes will be monitored throughout the program and community meetings will be held to discuss potential policy and investment decisions, Johnson said.

  • MIHF is in conversations with state officials to help participants obtain benefit waivers to help avoid participants losing other sources of income, she said.

Big picture: The concept of a universal basic income has been around for years but has gained momentum since the pandemic with dozens of communities in other states launching similar programs.

  • A narrow majority of adults oppose the idea, according to a survey released in August 2020 by the Pew Research center.
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