Democrats in one California city are experimenting with a privately funded solution to wipe out poverty – by giving away free cash.
125 residents in Stockton, California don’t have to worry about where there next meal is coming from. They receive $500 in “universal basic income” each month. No strings attached.
Susie Garza is one lucky recipient of free cash. On the 15th of every month she receives $500 on a debit card from a nonprofit organization that is experimenting with universal basic income to determine if it makes a difference in the lives of people earning below the poverty level.
Garza, who may or may not be a legal U.S. citizen, is unemployed. Her husband doesn’t work either, so the extra money she receives each month comes in handy.
According to the Associated Press, Garza can use the cash however she wants. She says she uses $150 to pay her cellphone bill. Another $100 goes to her vet for her pet dog.
She also lavishes birthday gifts and junk food on her grandsons. She used to be a drug addict but that’s in her past. She says she’s been off drugs for 18 years now.
“I like it because I feel more independent, like I’m in charge. I really have something that’s my own,” she tells the AP.
The experiment is monitored by a group of researchers whose goal for the program is not finances but happiness.
Jovan Bravo, a 31-year-old Stockton native and construction worker, is married and has three children, ages 13, 8 and 4.
He says the extra $500 he receives each month gives him the freedom to spend more time with his wife and kids.
He said before the free money windfall he had to work multiple jobs and he didn’t have enough time for his children.
Now he only works one Saturday a month. He uses the other Saturdays to play with his kids in the park.
“It’s made a huge difference,” he told the AP. “Just being able to spend more time with the wife and kids, it brings us closer together.”
Republicans criticize the program because they say it encourages people not to work for a living.
Democratic candidates hope to expand the free cash program nationwide, if one of them is elected president in November 2020.
U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, a leading candidate for the nomination, has a proposal to give up to $500 a month to working families.
Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang, a tech entrepreneur who is a long shot for the nomination, wants to give $1,000 to every American.
Harris’ plan to give $500 a month to working families earning up to $100,000 annually would cost about $275 billion per year, according to the Tax Policy Center.
Yang’s proposal to give $1,000 to every adult in America would cost $2.8 trillion per year.
Both candidates say they will pay for their free money programs by reversing President Trump’s tax cuts and increasing taxes on corporations.
Garza, who is the only breadwinner in her family, says she doesn’t know what she will do when the privately funded program ends in July 2020.
She says she asked the program director how she was lucky enough to get into the program.
“She goes, ‘Because you’re blessed,'” Garza said. “And I just left it at that.”