Potential UBI pilot in Hartford would give small number of Hartford families up to $500 a month

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The latest plans for a Universal Basic Income pilot program in the city of Hartford envision giving monthly payments of up to $500 to about two dozen Hartford families, according to the city task force designing the program.

The group has been meeting since April but is still early in the process of outlining what a UBI pilot could look like in Hartford. There is tentative private funding to provide 25 families with payments for one year, but the city is looking for more money to cover a larger group that’s more representative of the capital city, task force chair David Grant told members during their June 24 meeting.

City council has asked the task force to design a pilot targeting single, working parents. They would be able to use the monthly payments for basic expenses like housing, food, transportation, medical care and education.

The pilot — if ultimately approved and funded — would launch in July 2022, according to Grant, the executive assistant and legislative liaison to the Court of Common Council.

By experimenting with a UBI on a small scale, the city hopes to learn whether extra, guaranteed income improves recipients’ physical and emotional well-being, job prospects and financial security.

The most well-known UBI pilot, in Stockton, California, found that $500 monthly payments allowed participants to cut back on part-time or gig work in order to complete internships, training and coursework that improved their job prospects, leading to full-time work and promotions.

Recipients were also physically and emotionally healthier after one year and better able to manage unexpected costs, a preliminary study found.

The Hartford task force has not decided how the city would select people for the pilot.

The task force must submit a final report by the end of 2021. Everything is subject to change, Grant added.

“Our team knows that they will need to design a program flexible enough to accommodate more money but also less money,” Grant said.

The task force members includes professors of economics, social work and equitable practice and a human rights attorney.

People can share their views with the group during a virtual community forum on July 22 at 6 p.m., and by leaving a comment on a Facebook page for the UBI task force.

Stephen Palmer, who runs a Hartford-based mentoring and tutoring program called Youth on Fire Inc., commented to question whether payments of $500 would do enough good, when rent is often $1,000 or more.

It all comes down to money, Grant responded on the page.

“We just don’t have it,” he said. “With the limited resources we do have, we are trying our best to create an equitable program to provide immediate assistance to as many families as we can.”

Rebecca Lurye can be reached at rlurye@courant.com.

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