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Madison’s Mayor joins call for guaranteed basic income program


MADISON (WKOW) -- The idea of giving some residents a basic income with no strings attached is being supported by Madison's mayor.

On Tuesday, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey donated $15 million to the group Mayors for a Basic Income. The coalition of 29 mayors wants to fund guaranteed basic income programs to provide monthly payments to people to help alleviate poverty and systemic racism.

Madison is one of several cities on the list receiving funds for a pilot program. Others include Los Angeles and Oakland, Richmond, Virginia, New Orleans, Louisiana, and Tacoma, Washington.

"I believe that a national guaranteed income program would help solve many of the challenges that our community here in Madison faces," Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway said Tuesday during a news conference.

A guaranteed income is a monthly cash sum paid directly to any resident who qualifies with no strings attached. The concept is similar to a universal basic income, but it is normally targeted toward low-income residents, rather than all residents. 

"Research shows that ongoing direct payments to people would help alleviate poverty more affectively than expansions to unemployment insurance benefits or to the supplemental nutrition program," Rhodes-Conway said.

The mayor says Madison's pilot would focus mainly on affordable housing.

"We have an affordable housing crisis, which the city and the county have prioritized in our annual budgets, but we also realize that we need other tools and mechanisms to fully address this crisis," Mayor Rhodes-Conway continued. "Our vision for guaranteed minimum income, or direct payments pilot here in Madison, is to place housing affordability and security at the center of the conversation."

Michael Tubbs, the mayor of Stockton, California, launched one of the US's first guaranteed-income pilots last year. The program, called SEED, has been giving monthly payments of $500 to 125 of the city's lowest-income residents since February 2019.

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