Detroit Today: Should Detroit provide guaranteed income to residents?

A proposal submitted to Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan by one non-profit suggests giving residents $1,200 per month.

Universal Basic Income (“UBI”) — the idea that every citizen, regardless of their income or employment status, should receive a regular cash payment from the government — has been has been gaining a lot of steam lately.

Proponents of UBI argue that it could reduce poverty, boost spending, and spur entrepreneurship and creativity. Critics, however, argue that it would be too expensive, disincentivize work, and create dependency on the government.

Still, others say different policy solutions would the most effective. They put forward a higher minimum wage, improved education system, or even a more progressive tax structure as options.

“It’s no surprise that when people get cash material hardship drops.” — Patrick Cooney, Michigan Future

Listen: How guaranteed income could help alleviate poverty in Detroit


Patrick Cooney is vice president of Michigan Future, a Michigan-based think tank, and a senior advisor with Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan. He says direct cash payment programs have helped people suffering through hardships.

“It’s no surprise that when people get cash material hardship drops,” says Cooney. “But the fact that material hardship was so high in the first place in the richest country on Earth…that is a big problem.”

Kofi Kenyatta is the Senior Director of Policy & Practice at UpTogether, a national non-profit organization. Recently, his organization sent a letter to Detroit City Council and Mayor Mike Duggan proposing the start of a guaranteed income program in the city.

He says guaranteed income is different from universal basic income, because it is targeted towards those who need it the most.

“As an organization, we recognize that poverty has been created by racist and deficit based systems,” says Kenyatta, “and so in order to alleviate poverty, we also need equity and community centered policies and solutions.

“We try to target communities that have been negatively impacted by systems and practices that have kept them marginalized and under resourced,” he continues.

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