Andrew Yang announces $120,000 giveaway during debate

By Alex Thompson

Presidential candidate Andrew Yang announced at Thursday night’s debate that his campaign will randomly select 10 families and give them a total of $120,000 over the next year as part of a pilot program for his universal basic income plan.

Yang announced the online raffle during his opening statement. People will be able to enter during the next week, according to a person with knowledge of the plans. The money will be distributed to 10 families in increments of $1,000 per month as a way of highlighting Yang’s signature campaign promise, a universal basic income.

That plan, which Yang has dubbed the "Freedom Dividend," would provide every citizen over the age of 18 with $1,000 a month. A campaign official said the money would come from campaign funds and would be paid out for the full year even if Yang does not become the nominee.

Currently, Yang is paying out of his own pocket to provide two families in Iowa and New Hampshire with the $12,000 per year benefit along with a family in Florida who was selected in a Twitter giveaway. But the promise during tonight's debate would dramatically expand the unique campaign tactic.

It's the latest unconventional move for the outsider candidate, who has defied expectations and moved ahead of experienced politicians like Sens. Cory Booker and Amy Klobuchar. Many presidential candidates promise financial benefits if voters elect them but few promise random people money before any votes are cast.

But the raffle has the potential to bring both attention to his platform and collect new contact information of potential supporters, in addition to the cash it will give the winners.

"Most politicians, they use campaign donations for TV or for high-class consultants," said a campaign spokesperson. "We are taking a different approach. We want to help people and we want to help families."

Yang has said his universal basic income plan is needed to help people adapt to the disruption caused by emerging technologies and automation. The 44-year-old entrepreneur argues that this era of technological innovation is so transformative that new careers will not reemerge quickly.