Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has joined a new group of mayors calling for a guaranteed income to their citizens.
The Mayors for a Guaranteed Income coalition “will explore cash payment programs in their cities for guaranteed income programs,” according to a city press release. The idea of a guaranteed income is an unrestricted cash payment from the government to individual citizens to address economic inequality.
Mayors for a Guaranteed Income, according to its website, includes the mayors of Columbia, South Carolina; Jackson, Mississippi; Newark, New Jersey; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; St. Paul, Minnesota; Shreveport, Louisiana; Tacoma, Washington; and the California cities of Compton, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Oakland and Stockton.
The press release noted that Martin Luther King Jr. was among those who have called for some form of guaranteed basic income over the years.
“I am honored to join this powerful coalition of mayors as a founding member in this privately funded pilot program,” said Bottoms in the press release. “We know that economic security is a right and a necessity for all to thrive in this country. I look forward to the meaningful work we will do to continue to push our communities forward.”
It was not immediately clear who is funding and operating the mayors group. Its website lacks those details or contact information. The press release says it was “founded in partnership with the Economic Security Project” and has a new partnership with What Works Cities, a Bloomberg Philanthropies initiative.
Last month, Dist. 2 Atlanta City Councilmember Amir Farokhi announced the formation of a task force about a possible guaranteed basic income program and other economic inequality measures targeting the Old Fourth Ward.
Farokhi launched the Old Fourth Ward Economic Security Task Force, an initiative bringing together 28 local and national stakeholders to make recommendations that will address persistent wealth inequity and insecurity for the most vulnerable residents in the neighborhood. Specifically, the task force will look at the potential of piloting guaranteed basic income, calling for a state earned income tax credit, and the future of work for low-income Atlantans.
Farokhi, who represents the Old Fourth Ward, feels that the area is an ideal staging ground for an undertaking of this kind.
“The time for bold action to tackle wealth insecurity, especially for Black and Latinx Atlantans, is yesterday. We have tip-toed around the issue for far too long. We need to be ambitious, ask big questions, and cast hesitancy aside. The Old Fourth Ward was home to Dr. King Jr.’s pulpit when he called for the eradication of poverty through, in part, a guaranteed income. Today, it remains a vibrant, diverse community, but one where abject poverty and affluence are cheek-to-cheek. The economic insecurity felt by so much of America, underpinned by issues of race and decades of wage stagnation, is on full display here. The coronavirus pandemic and recent demonstrations against racial injustice underscore the urgency of addressing inequality head on. I’m excited to explore big, bold solutions with residents and the task force,” Farokhi said.
The Economic Security Project (ESP) is partnering with the District 2 City Council office and Georgia Budget & Policy Institute (GBPI) to fund the task force.
The task force is comprised of individuals representing a broad spectrum of civic engagement. This includes former Mayor Shirley Franklin, Dena Kimball, executive director of the Kendeda Fund, and Taifa Smith Butler, president and CEO of the GBPI, who together join Farokhi as co-chairs.
Collin Kelley contributed to this report.