Data shows Stockton’s guaranteed basic income program helped lower unemployment

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STOCKTON, Calif. (KTXL)Former Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs shared data Wednesday from a guaranteed basic income program that shows giving people money helps with unemployment.

The Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration program, also known as SEED, gifted $500 a month to Stockton residents whose monthly median income was $1,800 or less.

Tomas Vargas Jr. is one of 125 Stockton residents who were part of Tubbs’ guaranteed basic income pilot program.

“It helped me. I’m a proven fact that it helped to change my whole situation, and even during COVID it helped me,” Vargas told FOX40.

He said he was able to get a better-paying full-time job, has more time for his family and is able to give back to the community. 

“It was a big change in my life. I was very depressed, I was very just down and out. I was at the bottom,” Vargas explained. “SEED bring me back, gave me that chance, opportunity. I’m doing better things.” 

A pair of independent researchers released their findings Wednesday following a study into year one of the program. Data from the first year shows how a small infusion of cash can change lives.

The report shows full-time employment among participants like Vargas rose from 28% when the experiment began to 40% after the first year.

“Guaranteed income did not make people stop working,” Tubbs explained. “In fact, those who received the guaranteed income are working more than before they receive the guaranteed income and almost double, an increase compared to those in the treatment group.”

Researchers also looked at how participants spent the money. 

People used the money for the basics, food, utilities and transportation. Data showed less than 1% was spent on alcohol or tobacco. 

“It wasn’t just that they had this ability to sort of stabilize income volatility in their own home,” said one of the researchers. “It also had sort of this spillover effect where they were actually able to spread that money around their family networks, around their social networks in ways that really stabilized food and security for more than one household at the same time.” 

Tubbs said the findings are proof that a guaranteed income can work. 

“I hope people take away from this is that these outdated, antiquated, racist tropes we have about why people are struggling, about why people are poor, about economic insecurity, are just put to bed,” Tubbs said. 

While there are no plans to continue the pilot program in Stockton, guaranteed income pilot programs are being implemented across the state in cities like Oakland, San Francisco and Compton, and across the country in St. Paul, Minnesota, and Gary, Indiana. 

A separate study regarding how the cash helped participants in the second year as they dealt with the pandemic will be released in 2022. 

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