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Oakland Begins First Phase Of $500 Guaranteed Income Program

OAKLAND (CBS SF) -- The Mayor of Oakland and other city officials announced Tuesday that the city started accepting applications for the first phase of its guaranteed income program, which provides $500-monthly payments for 18 months to families in need.

The Oakland Resilient Families program began accepting applications for the East Oakland phase Tuesday. There are 300 openings for families who live in East Oakland and they will be chosen by a random lottery, though priority goes to Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), who the city identifies as being the groups with the greatest wealth disparities per the Oakland Equity Index.

Applicants must also be low income with at least 1 child under 18. Applications are due by 5 p.m. on June 30.

"Guaranteed income is one that is designed to lift up the dignity of individuals," Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said during the announcement of the program.

City officials hope the program improves the lives of low income families like it did in Stockton, when former mayor Michael Tubbs started a similar program three years ago.

"Poverty is not a personal failure, it is a policy failure," Schaaf said. "Guaranteed income presents one of the most promising tools for systems change, racial equity, and economic mobility we've seen in decades. We're proud to begin the first phase of Oakland Resilient Families, which we believe will add to the growing body of evidence that the time has come for a guaranteed income at the federal level."

READ MORE: Oakland To Provide $500 A Month In Guaranteed Income To 600 BIPOC Families

The program aims to help Oakland residents who are at or below 50% of the city's median income, which is an annual salary of $59,000 for a family of three. Half of the winning applications are expected to be families earning less than 138% of the federal poverty level, or about $30,000 per year for a family of three.

"For many of our low-income residents in East Oakland an additional $500 means having enough money to purchase healthy groceries, pay for proper child-care, maintain adequate housing, and/or secure other tools that will not only economically advance their families but our community as a whole," said Councilmember Treva Reid during the announcement Tuesday. "In our continuous effort to create a thriving East Oakland, I look forward to realizing this pilot's intended socioeconomic impact."

Families in East Oakland have already shown interest in applying.

Jazzmyn, who did not give her last name, is raising a 1-year-old girl with another on the way. She told KPIX 5 that she is struggling to buy enough diapers and a new toy every once in a while, for Sulki.

"Financially I am struggling. I'm not going to lie. I'm having a hard time providing," Jazzmyn said.

An extra $500 a month for a year-and-a-half sounds too good to be true. "Five hundred could do a lot of things for us," she said.

Rah Bowden of Room to Bloom Family Resource Center, helps nearby families handing out free diapers and support in many other ways in East Oakland.

"They would definitely benefit from it for sure. Hope and that resilience, too. They're already resilient, they're already making do with what they have, but to have this extra thing, it's a huge lift," Bowden told KPIX 5.

During the announcement Tuesday, Schaaf also noted that undocumented families are also eligible for the program and that their information will be kept private.

"We want undocumented families to apply. We know they've been left out of pandemic funding and aid," Schaaf said.

As part of outreach, more than 200 non-profits will begin handing out flyers to get the message out to apply.

"They are a key part of our engagement strategy to ensure we're reaching those who are the hardest to reach," said City Councilmember Loren Taylor, who represents District 7.

Not everyone agrees the program will actually help the recipients.

"It is keeping people out of the workforce and causing a dependency regardless of who's behind the handout," said activist and former San Francisco mayoral candidate Richie Greenberg.

The application period for phase 2 is scheduled to launch later this summer. It will be open to households with low incomes citywide. Interested parties can sign up to be notified when the citywide application is released.

Funded entirely by donations, The Oakland Resilient Families program is a collaboration between the Family Independence Initiative and the national Mayors for a Guaranteed Income.

To learn more about the program or apply, visit the Oakland Resilient Families website.

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