STOCKTON — New data shows how Stockton families are using an extra $500 of guaranteed income each month.
The data comes from Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs’ Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration, also known as SEED.
“People are people, and the folks in the program aren’t different than me or you or anyone watching,” said Tubbs. “They’re spending the money the way we would, on food, on utilities, on merchandise.”
On Thursday, the privately-funded program released more data on the 125 chosen participants whose monthly median income is $1,800, less than half the national median.
“People are smart. You can trust the vast majority of people to make the right decisions and to allow people just to have the basics met, so they can do all the other things we want to see folks do,” Tubbs said.
According to the organization, after the first five months of tracked purchases, 40% of the money was spent on food. Another 25% was on merchandising, which includes items like clothing, shoes, home goods and appliances. About 12% was spent on utilities, such as gas, electricity, phone and internet.
“Something as small as $500 a month means the world to people,” Tubbs said. “It’s the difference between being sick and being healthy. The difference between being an absent parent and being there. The difference between being homeless and being housed.”
SEED Program Director Sukhi Samra said the data shows what the organization has suspected all along.
“When you give people unconditional cash, they’re going to use it to take care of their basic needs,” Samra said.
According to the data, of the 125 people getting money, 43% are working full- or part-time, 20% are on disability and 13% are unemployed. Of those who are unemployed, 2% of people aren’t looking for a job, 11% say they are caretakers, 8% are retirees and 5% are students.
“I think this goes to show that the issue with that fact that folks in Stockton, Sacramento, etcetera, they can’t pay their bills,” said Tubbs. “Not because they’re not working but because the economy isn’t working, and I think that’s what this demonstration is trying to solve.”
“[It] really combats the stereotype that if you give people money, they’re just going to stop working,” Samra said.
The guaranteed basic income program is expected to end in July of 2020, but Tubbs would like to see it continued nationwide.