California town tests ‘basic income’ payments with $500 debit cards


National News

February 18, 2019 - 11:13 AM

Downtown Stockton, Calif. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — After months of planning, Stockton, Calif., is sending debit cards loaded with $500 to a select group of residents starting Friday as part of a closely watched experiment in universal basic income, the first led by a U.S. city.

Stockton, once dubbed “America’s foreclosure capital,” was the largest city to seek bankruptcy protection before Detroit’s 2013 filing. During the recession, unemployment soared toward 20 percent, and violent crime rose. Today, one in four residents lives below the poverty line, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Now, as the city slowly recovers from financial disarray, officials and advocates look to the Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration, or SEED, to provide insight on whether a long-term basic income program is a viable creative approach to lifting residents out of poverty.

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