Guaranteed Basic Income
In Ann Arbor, city officials have decided to use $1.6 million of the city’s $24 million recovery budget to create the nation’s first guaranteed basic income program.
For two years, the city will provide 100 low-income families with a monthly check for $500 – with no strings attached.
City Councilwoman Lin Song proposed the pilot program last spring when she saw that Congress had approved an increase in the child tax credit and the COVID eviction moratorium had expired.
“Even though Ann Arbor is the economic engine of (Washten) County and quite wealthy … there are people who can barely afford to stay here or have been pushed out,” Song told Bridge Michigan, explaining her motivation. .
“I really wanted (pandemic recovery money) to hit families at the local level to meet those really immediate needs.”
Guaranteed basic income and its broader cousin, universal basic income, are not new concepts. Since 1982, Alaska has used oil revenues to pay annual dividends to residents. Presidential candidate Andrew Young has made a splash by offering a national “freedom dividend” in his 2020 campaign
Stockton, California launched a municipal basic income program for low-income residents in 2019, with dozens of other cities following suit. Lansing Mayor Andy Shore has proposed using federal recovery funds for a similar initiative in Detroit explored the idea too.
While critics argue that the programs can be disruptive and too expensive, early research suggests this is the case mental health and financial stability benefits for recipients.
More than a year after funding for the Guaranteed Basic Income program was approved, Ann Arbor is still in the planning stages.
But on June 5, the City Council is set to vote on a contract with the University of Michigan Anti-Poverty Campaign to manage and evaluate the pilot project.
“It was very important to the city … that we found a partner that could create useful social science that could be transferred to other cities or other states or nonprofits that are interested in running their own,” said Bridge, deputy city manager. admin John Fournier.
Although initially limited to 100 low-income families, the pilot program could “lay the foundation for a larger, longer-term program that could benefit all families in Ann Arbor,” according to the city’s report to the federal government.
The state and large local governments have so far announced plans to use $1.4 billion in federal stimulus funds to offset revenue lost during the COVID-19 pandemic and provide general government services, including $1.1 billion already spent.
A broad spending category, as defined by the federal government, allows for spending on a wide range of projects.
Sterling Heights will use $1 million of $19.8 million in federal stimulus funds to create a series of “microforests” by planting trees throughout the city.
Locations can include downtowns, public parks, corporate campuses, industrial areas and “really anywhere that has 1,000 square feet of vacant land,” according to the federal report.
The project, the city added, “is justified by the tremendous environmental benefits derived from the forest, including cleaner air, a natural water filtration system, a natural air conditioner, a flood mitigation system, a natural habitat for all life forms, a natural resting place for people who looking for peace and quiet.”
Sterling Heights is a tight-knit community that is “pretty much built out,” Mayor Michael Taylor Bridge said. “Every corner of the community continues to develop. But when the developers come, they clear the trees.”
Replacing trees with planting microforests will help the city meet its sustainability goals and improve the quality of life for residents, Taylor said. “And it’s great for the environment.”
Government jobs, bonuses and lost income
State and local governments so far plan to use a relatively small portion of their federal recovery funds to plug holes in their budgets or staffing, including $321 million already spent to compensate for lost revenue, $256 million earmarked for hiring or retaining employees and 24 millions of dollars to pay bonuses to workers who stayed on the job during the pandemic.
Genesee County was the biggest spender on that front, using $7 million to pay bonuses to more than 1,000 state employees — an average of about $6,500 per county worker.
County public facilities closed “for a short period of time” during the COVID-19 pandemic, but quickly reopened to serve the public, Genesse officials said in a federal spending report.
Employees who have returned for in-person work have been “integral” in keeping the county functional, developing COVID response plans, delivering meals to residents who have gone home, and helping schedule and administer vaccines, the county added.
“The on-site employment of these positions was critical to maintaining the county’s operations during this time period, and there were additional risks for these employees due to face-to-face contact with others.”
Excavation of lead pipes
Michigan and its largest local governments have finalized plans to use $1.4 billion in total federal recovery funding to improve infrastructure by 2023, according to federal reports.
But only 25 million dollars were spent.
Much of the money has been set aside for water infrastructure projects, including about $1 billion set aside in the state budget for new drinking and clean water revolving funds that will lend money to local governments for related projects.
The state also used $92 million to help Detroit and Benton Harbor tear up and replace underground service lines.
Other communities, including Bay City ($6 million), are using their own federal funds to replace those pipes under rules put in place by former Gov. Rick Snyder after Flint’s pollution crisis by 2040.
This is a huge task: in 2021, according to the estimates of officials, there were still more than 400,000 active lead water pipes in communities across the state, creating a potential public health hazard.
“You tend to see people doing projects that maybe they were planning to do anyway, so they’re just using that money to pay for a few miles of road or fix some major service lines,” Scorsson said. “And that’s good. They free up money for other things.”
Health care and gun violence
By the end of 2022, state and local governments have allocated $788 million in federal health recovery dollars and spent about $200 million of that amount.
Most of that money is for direct response to the pandemic, including $139 million for equipment in nursing homes and other places of worship. At least two communities — Saginaw and Lenawee County — have used the funding to encourage public employees to get COVID-19 vaccines.
But local governments also plan to use stimulus funds to address other public health issues exacerbated by the pandemic, including $20 million for mental health efforts in Oakland County and nearly $8 million for a plan to reduce gun violence in Detroit.