Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) is set to introduce bold legislation on Friday that would create a guaranteed income program in the U.S. to send $1,200 a month directly to most Americans.
The SUPPORT Act — co-sponsored by progressive lawmakers Reps. Cori Bush (D-Mo.), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Dwight Evans (D-Penn.) and Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) — would first create a $2.5 billion grant program to fund local pilots in guaranteed income. These would run in hundreds of communities across the country from 2023 to 2027 and provide findings for a national program.
The national guaranteed income program would start in 2028, sending $1,200 per month to adults making up to $75,000 per year, or heads of household making up to $112,500 per year, as well as providing $600 monthly per child. The payments would phase out for higher incomes.
Importantly, undocumented people who file taxes with an ITIN number would be eligible. The legislation would also establish a banking system through the postal service for “unbanked, underbanked and individuals experiencing housing instability” to receive payments.
“Poverty is a choice. For too long we have prioritized endless growth while millions are homeless, hungry or without healthcare,” Omar said in a statement. “We as a nation have the ability to make sure everyone has their basic needs like food, housing and healthcare met.”
The idea of a guaranteed income, or free money with no conditions, to improve economic and other outcomes for low-income people is not new. It’s been tested at significant scale in countries such as Kenya and India with positive results, including improved nutrition, and in Finland, where preliminary results showed improved health and well-being.
In the U.S, a federal report from 2019 found that nearly 40% of Americans could not afford to cover a $400 surprise expense.
Some pilot guaranteed income projects here have shown promise: In Stockton, California, 125 people were sent $500 in cash each month for a year. A study found that recipients had better job prospects, improved mental health and used the cash to purchase basic necessities.
In Mississippi, Magnolia Mother’s Trust gave $1,000 per month to Black moms, who said it made a difference in their lives.
And Oakland, California, is set to launch one of the largest guaranteed income programs in the nation so far, giving $500 of unconditional cash each month to 600 low-income families of color.
Omar pointed to the success of the federal government’s own recent experiment in giving cash directly to Americans: Millions of Americans received three rounds of stimulus checks during the COVID-19 pandemic. These payments were found to substantially reduce economic hardship, enabling people to buy food and pay bills, and reducing anxiety and depression.