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Several cities across America including Hudson, New York, Stockton, California, and Gary, Indiana have piloted monthly guaranteed income programs to help those in need. NewsHour Weekend’s Zachary Green speaks to Natalie Foster, Co-Chair of the Economic Security Project about cash policies and whether America should expand its welfare programs to bridge inequality.
For more on guaranteed income, Zachary Green spoke with Natalie Foster, co-chair of the Economic Security Project. The non-profit organization helps fund programs that work to create wage and income equality––and is one of the funders of Aisha Nyandoro's non-profit, 'Springboard to Opportunities'.
So we just heard Aisha Nyandoro say that if Magnolia Mother's Trust or any of the other guaranteed income programs that are currently operating in the country now are still around in five years, she would consider that a failure. What do you think of that statement and is there anything happening on the federal level right now that would make programs like Magnolia Mother's Trust unnecessary?
One thing we know is that cash policies are some of the most efficient and effective ways of helping families when they are struggling. You know, people, almost all Americans experienced a sort of experiment in cash policies through stimulus checks that came to families through expanded unemployment insurance when people lost a job, and through the child tax credit checks, which are basically a guaranteed income for families with children.
Unfortunately, it's all uncertain. People didn't know when the stimulus checks would come, when they would start and stop. And unfortunately, the child tax credit has just sent out its last check in December of 2021 because of congressional gridlock in Washington, D.C.. So we need to move past the uncertainty and make the child tax credit, which is a guaranteed income for families with children, a permanent part of American social policy.
So one thing that we keep hearing is that restrictions within the current social safety net might actually be keeping people within the cycle of poverty rather than helping them pull themselves out of it. Could you tell us why that's the case? What is it about our current welfare system that might actually be keeping people in poverty?
Well, I'll first say that our current welfare system is saving people's lives. It is incredibly important that we have it, but we need to build on it and grow it and create it as a support mechanism for families as we enter these uncertain times, making it so that cash comes with no strings attached so that families can make their own decisions about what they need.
So what do you say to people who say that if you take away the restrictions from these welfare programs, then people are just going to spend the money irresponsibly?
These policies are often rooted in racist histories in distrust of families, and they add cruel logistical complexity to people who are just trying to navigate a system, you know, when they are struggling.
One of the things we saw coming out of many of the guaranteed income demonstrations are that people spend the money on the basics. They put food on the table. Some families, that's three meals instead of two. Every family is different. And for every family, it's important for being able to live the lives of dignity that they deserve.
And finally, we've looked at guaranteed income programs in Stockton, California, in Hudson, New York, and Gary, Indiana, and San Francisco, where they were dealing with people experiencing homelessness. What do you see as the future for guaranteed income and how do you see guaranteed income being scaled up on a national level? What would the mechanics of that be?
What we're seeing right now are cities as the laboratories of democracy. We are seeing mayors like Mayor Michael Tubbs in Stockton and community leaders like Dr. Aisha Nyandoro, who are taking up the mantle and saying, this is the future of American social policy, and I will demonstrate what it looks like in my city. We're seeing dozens of cities across the country demonstrating what a regular monthly support of cash could look like for families.
And the results are incredible. People feel less stress. They're able to work jobs that are meaningful and higher paying in their lives and are able to put food on the table. And I believe that will demonstrate what a federal guaranteed income should look like. But the bottom line is, regular checks that families can count on in this country are how we build back better in America.
Natalie Foster of the Economic Security Project. Thanks so much for joining us.
It's great to be here.
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Zachary Green began working in online and broadcast news in 2009. Since then he has produced stories all over the U.S. and overseas in Ireland and Haiti. In his time at NewsHour, he has reported on a wide variety of topics, including climate change, immigration, voting rights, and the arts. He also produced a series on guaranteed income programs in the U.S. and won a 2015 National Headliner Award in business and consumer reporting for his report on digital estate planning. Prior to joining Newshour, Zachary was an Associate Producer for Need to Know on PBS, during which he assisted in producing stories on gun violence and healthcare, among others. He also provided narration for the award-winning online documentary series, “Retro Report”.
Ivette Feliciano shoots, produces and reports on camera for PBS NewsHour Weekend. Before starting with NewsHour in 2013, she worked as a one-person-band correspondent for the News 12 Networks, where she won a New York Press Club Award for her coverage of Super Storm Sandy, which ravaged the East Coast in 2012. Prior to that, Ivette was the Associate Producer of Latin American news for Worldfocus, a nationally televised, daily international news show seen on Public Television. While at Worldfocus, Ivette served as the show’s Field Producer and Reporter for Latin America, covering special reports on the Mexican drug war as well as a 5-part series out of Bolivia, which included an interview with President Evo Morales. In 2010, she co-produced a documentary series on New York’s baseball history that aired on Channel Thirteen. Ivette holds a Master’s degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, where she specialized in broadcast journalism.
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