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Andrew Yang’s nonprofit launching a pilot program to give New Yorkers universal basic income

Andrew Yang’s nonprofit, Humanity Forward, announced today it was part of a pilot program for New Yorkers to receive universal basic income (UBI), a highlight of Yang’s 2020 campaign. (Photo by Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons)

Andrew Yang’s nonprofit and The Spark of Hudson announced the beginning of a universal basic income (UBI) pilot program to be launched in this year.

Universal basic income was a focal part of Yang’s 2020 presidential campaign, which has been suspended — but the idea still lives on.

Instead of a nationwide approach, it’s being tested in Hudson, New York, with 20 recipients being given $500 a month for the next five years.

“Receiving a form of UBI allows you to begin making meaningful, long-term plans. It allows one to think beyond next month’s bills,” Yang said in a recent statement.

“Through the HudsonUP project, we’re going to see families benefit enormously from receiving $500 a month for five years,” he continued.

Yang’s initial UBI proposal, known as “the Freedom Dividend,” promised $1,000 a month to all U.S. citizens over the age of 18. Entrepreneurs such as Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Tesla’s Elon Musk supported the idea, along with Robert Reich and Ta-Nehisi Coates.

The experiment’s 20 recipients have not been identified, according to The New York Daily News. But Yang said in an interview that they will be “low-income residents” of Hudson, which has a 19.2% poverty rate.

Hudson’s mayor applauded the decision.

“In light of the current ongoing crisis, this pilot will give a glimpse of hope to our constituents, many of whom are facing various financial burdens. We welcome out-of-the-box and innovative ideas that can better our communities,” Mayor Kamal Johnson said in a statement. “This pilot will provide a cushion for families, and this support could be life-changing.”

The program, Hudson UP, is a collaborative effort with The Spark of Hudson, an education-centric community center set to launch in Hudson, and Humanity Forward.

Hudson has 6,713 residents, the second-largest in New York’s Columbia County, according to the 2010 Census. The city also has a median household income of $35,439, making the city “ideal” for a control group, according to the groups.

Hudson’s population also has 7.8% Asians, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The PEW Research Center reported that income inequality increased most among Asian Americans since the 1970s, greater than the Black and Hispanic population.

This wealth gap is primarily due to immigration and discriminatory hiring practices, PEW Research Center said.

Meanwhile, Humanity Forward and The Spark of Hudson will contribute $300,000 each towards the project, making the total $600,000, News10 reported.

Yang said Humanity Forward will track how the 20 recipients will spend their UBI, predicting that “people [will] become mentally healthier, more optimistic, more secure in their future” — similar to the federal government’s stimulus check to provide financial aid to people during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hudson’s mayor is not the only one who supports the launch.

“We are thrilled that the City of Hudson has been selected for this project,” said Joan Hunt, the executive director of Greater Hudson Promise Neighborhood (GHPN).

“UBI provides a unique opportunity for families and communities to begin dismantling the intergenerational cycles of poverty,” she continued. “We look forward to continuing our involvement with this exciting and innovative project.” 

Hudson will join Stockton, Calif., which is currently in the middle of a similar UBI 18-month trial: giving $500 a month to 125 people, courtesy of private philanthropy and research group Economic Security Project.

Universal basic income has been tried in several countries, including in the U.S., but they have been “short-lived, small-scale trials” but proved mainly beneficial, improving education and mental health.

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