Upstate New York launched a pilot universal basic income program for 100 Ulster County residents.
Those residents will receive $500 monthly checks for a year and must make less than $46,900 annually.
Other cities have implemented similar programs, and some Democrats want every American to get permanent payments.
The idea of a universal basic income has grown increasingly popular over the past few years, and now, 100 lucky upstate New York residents will get to experience what it's like to get $500 monthly payments, no strings attached.
In mid-May, Ulster County in upstate New York launched a pilot universal basic income program that would send $500 monthly payments to 100 randomly selected residents for one year. To be eligible for the program, the county residents must make less than $46,900 annually, which is based on 80% of the county's average median income.
"We will not tell you how to spend your additional income, nor will we include requirements like employment," the county website said. "By providing a minimum income each month, we believe households will be better able to plan, meet their basic needs, become self-sufficient, and achieve more of their potential."
More than 4,200 people applied for this program, and funding for it was made possible through private community donations.
Annette Steele, a participant in the program, told AP News that even though she is employed as a special education teacher, these monthly payments are a much needed financial boost.
"It lessens my bills," Steele said. "People think because you've been working so many years, that you make this tremendous amount of money. But no, actually."
Ulster County joins a growing number of cities testing out universal basic income for their residents. Chicago, Boston, and St. Paul, among others, have implemented similar programs, and California just became the first state to send out $1,000 monthly checks prioritizing pregnant people and those aging out of the foster system - the nation's first statewide guaranteed income program.
But these programs, including upstate New York's, are only temporary, and some Democrats want a universal basic income to become a permanent feature of America's economy.
After the pandemic spurred Congress to approve three stimulus checks for Americans, some Democrats called to continue those checks well beyond the end of the pandemic, and in late March, amid infrastructure negotiations, 21 Democratic senators urged President Joe Biden in a letter to include recurring direct payments in his infrastructure plan, saying that when checks ran out after the CARES Act, poverty rose.
A report from the Economic Security Project in April also found that fourth and fifth rounds of stimulus checks could cut the number of Americans in poverty in 2021 to 16 million from 44 million while helping close imbalances in poverty, income, and wealth between white Americans and Americans of color.
"This crisis is far from over, and families deserve certainty that they can put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads," the Democrats wrote in their March letter. "Families should not be at the mercy of constantly-shifting legislative timelines and ad hoc solutions."
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