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Oakland to offer guaranteed income, but only for minority families

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600 low-income minority families will receive $500 a month for the next 18 months

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Officials in Oakland, California, announced the launch of a guaranteed income pilot program this week that will provide direct monthly payments to low-income minority families in the city.

The initiative, which is one of the largest guaranteed income experiments to be conducted in the United States to date, aims to find out if providing regular payments low-income families will lift them from their economic plight.

What are the details?

The program, called Oakland Resilient Families, will send 600 families in the city $500-a-month payments over the next 18 months as part of an effort to eliminate racial wealth inequalities in the city, which the program argues is the result of "ongoing systemic racism."

Though similar in many ways to universal basic income, Oakland's guaranteed income program is not designed for everyone, but specifically for low-income black, indigenous, and people of color, or BIPOC, families — groups the city says suffer from the greatest level of wealth disparity. Recipients of the payments will be able to spend the money in any way they choose.

Families must apply online in the coming weeks and months in order to enter a pool of potential recipients, from which eligible families will be randomly selected to receive the cash payments.

Eligible families are those at or below 50% of the median income level for the area, which is about $59,000 per year for a family of three. However, half of the spots in the program will be reserved for very-low-income families, which are those earning below 138% of the federal poverty level, or roughly $30,000 annually for a family of three.

According to the Oakland Resilient Families "About" page, the program will also be "open to undocumented residents and unsheltered families."

What else?

While announcing the program during a news conference Tuesday, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said, "We believe that guaranteed income is the most transformative policy that can achieve this vision and whose time has come."

According to KPIX-TV, Schaaf noted that once the program kicks off in the spring and summer, "evaluators" will be tasked with monitoring how the money is spent and how much of an impact the payments made on the recipients' lives.

Officials reportedly emphasized that none of the money to be distributed through the program will come from taxpayers; rather, the funds will be raised through philanthropic donations. A reported $6.75 million has been raised for the program so far.

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