Americans are lining up in hopes they'll be among the 10 lucky recipients of one of Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang's "Freedom Dividends." But those hoping for a cash handout face lottery-like odds: As of Monday, at least 450,000 people had entered Yang's raffle to receive the $1,000 per month allotment through his campaign website.
To enter, hopeful recipients must visit Yang2020.com and enter their name, email address and Zip code. Entries will close Thursday at 11:59 p.m. ET.
Yang — and other advocates of what's called a universal basic income — argue that putting money directly in the pockets of the people through a regular cash stipend is "[t]he most direct and concrete way for the government to improve your life."
"The government is not capable of a lot of things, but it is capable of sending large numbers of checks to large numbers of people promptly and reliably," Yang states on his campaign website.
He has also framed the dividend as a tool that can give workers leverage against their employers. "The #FreedomDividend would increase worker bargaining power and make all workers much harder to exploit. It's easier to push for fair treatment if you don't have a boot on your throat," Yang tweeted.
Yang announced the "Freedom Dividend" pilot program during his opening remarks in the September Democratic candidates debate. He's already put the proposed policy to test in three states.
earlier this year was selected to receive the first handout. He said he's using it in part to make sure his daughter graduates debt-free from college. The other recipients reside in Iowa and Florida.
Yang, a former New York businessman, funded the first three stipends himself. His presidential campaign will fund the pilot program, he said,over the campaign stunt's legality. Yang insists it does not violate federal campaign finance laws.
"We have this whole army of lawyers who signed off on it," Yang told CBS News' Ed O'Keefe. "But I want everyone to reflect for a moment that we live in a world where a billionaire can spend over $10 million buying his way onto the election stage and everyone thinks that is totally appropriate. But then I'm literally giving money to Americans around the county to do whatever they'd like to help improve their lives, and that seems problematic."
Other experts have said that the raffle proposal seems legal because the candidate is not asking voters for anything in return.
"It's a form of campaign advertising," campaign finance expert Rick Hasen of the University of California at Irvine's School of Law tweeted Thursday.