A universal basic income pilot program could soon help 125 Detroit families

Funding would be a mix of federal dollars and donations
Posted at 1:16 PM, Apr 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-12 17:49:11-04

DETROIT (WXYZ) — A proposal to set up a test program for universal basic income is gaining momentum in the city of Detroit and is part of a national movement.

7 Action News went downtown to learn more about the program for Detroit, who it’s designed to help and how it will be funded.

“If it’s to help those truly in need, it’s a good thing,” Lesley Gant said.

Gant is as a Detroit mother of four children, including 2-year-old daughter Bailey. Gant says rising inflation, sky-high child care costs and other expenses for daily travel can be a source of stress growing each week.

She and her husband also see the crippling impact of soaring prices in more ways than one.

“As a social worker, I work a lot with low-income pregnant mothers and infants. A lot of them say they can’t afford child care or don’t have someone to watch their child while they are attempting to go to work,” Gant said.

It’s part of the reason Detroit City Councilman Coleman Young Jr. is working hard to draft a proposal to spend roughly $3 million for a pilot program for 24 months, paying 125 families at or below the poverty level $500 a month.

Funding would come from a mix of federal recovery act dollars and donations from the business community. A similar initiative has already passed in nearby Ann Arbor by city council.

“Child care, transportation, health care. This actually helps people get employment because they don’t have to worry about paying for housing costs, they don't have to worry about paying for food or utility costs,” Coleman said.

He’s opposed to critics who say paying out money would discourage working and create dependency on government. He hopes to soon set up a lottery system for applications on the city’s website.

Those eligible would have to live in the city of Detroit.

“If we are in a position to help those who can’t help themselves, what are we doing if we don’t use that power to the best of our ability?” Coleman said.

Michael Greiner, a professor of management at Oakland University, says research supports this as a solution for combating poverty, citing another well-known example.

“Senior citizens prior to social security were the poorest group in American society and they have gone from that to being the wealthiest,” Greiner said.

For Lesley Grant’s husband Robert, it’s also a proactive measure he supports, provided there are safeguards against abuse in place.

“Even with the pandemic, there were relief programs going on, but people were taking advantage of it, they were doing loopholes. It kind of ruined it for those who were truly in need,” Robert Grant said.

Young says an exact timeline is in the works, but he hopes to have a lot of progress made in the next two to three months.