Shreveport City Council supports privately funded guaranteed income pilot program

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SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – The Shreveport City Council approved a resolution Tuesday supporting a privately funded guaranteed income pilot program to provide direct cash payments of at least $600 a month for one year to more than 100 households in the city starting in December.

The money is unconditional. There are no work requirements and no restrictions on how the money can be spent.

The resolution introduced by Mayor Adrian Perkins authorizes the city to enter into an agreement with the Mayors for Guaranteed Income (MGI) and the United Way of Northwest Louisiana in partnership with the Shreveport Financial Empowerment Center (SFEC) to fund and administer the program.

Perkins is a founding member of MGI, a growing network of mayors advocating for a guaranteed income to ensure that all Americans have an income floor.

“Economic insecurity isn’t a new challenge or a partisan issue,” according to the organization’s website. “Wealth and income inequality, which have long plagued our country, continue to grow. Even prior to the pandemic, people who were working two and three jobs still couldn’t afford basic necessities. COVID-19 has only further exposed the economic fragility of most American households, and has disproportionately impacted Black and Brown people.”

The organization was founded in June 2020 and has already seeded guaranteed income pilot programs in more than two dozen other cities in 18 states, including New Orleans.

According to MGI, the funds are part of a $15 million grant from Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey through his #startsmall initiative, building on Dorsey’s initial donation of $3 million in July 2020.

Under the deal approved Tuesday, MGI will grant the City of Shreveport $500,000 to help launch the program and “create opportunities to elevate the City of Shreveport as a champion for a federal guaranteed income.”

The City of Shreveport will provide $450,000 in matching starter funds raised through its community partners “from other non-City sources and will seek to solicit additional dollars as allowed by law from other funding sources on an ongoing basis.”

A total of $897,600 will be distributed over the course of the 12-month pilot program to 110 randomly selected participants who meet income and other requirements.

The mayor’s office will lead the program, joining more than two dozen other cities in 18 states with pilot programs seeded by MGI, including New Orleans.

The plan for Shreveport’s guaranteed income pilot program includes research into how the injection of no-strings-attached cash affects the stability of the participating families’ income, employment, financial stability, and mental and physical health. Researchers will also track and evaluate changes in behavior, school attendance, and academic performance for school-aged children.

If all parties sign the Memorandum of Understanding as expected on October 15, Perkins expects to launch the program and begin accepting applications on October 18, with payments beginning on December 20.

According to the mayor’s plan, all of the participants’ incomes will be up to 120 percent of the poverty rate as determined by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) poverty guidelines, which ranges from an annual income of $17,420 for a family of two to $44,660 for a family of eight as of March 1, 2021.

Only single parents with school-aged children will be eligible, with parents defined as a mother, father, stepparent, grandparent, caregiver, or legal guardian.

Participants will be selected within the city limits of Shreveport with 50 percent of the participants coming from the five poorest zip codes in Shreveport.

All participants will be offered Shreveport Financial Empowerment Services (SFEC), but they will not be required to participate in the program. The SFEC will provide counseling on benefits and services. Those who are unbanked will get bank cards.

The resolution also urges President Biden, Speaker Pelosi, and Leader Schumer to develop an ongoing federal guaranteed income that provides an income floor for all Americans.

The council approved the resolution by a vote of four to three, with council members Jerry Bowman (Dist. G), LeVette Fuller (Dist. B), James Green (Dist. F), and Tabatha Taylor (Dist. A) voting in favor. Grayson Boucher (Dist. D), James Flurry (Dist. E), and John Nickleson (Dist. C) voted against the resolution.

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