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San Francisco To Launch Universal Basic Income Pilot Program for Artists

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- Mayor London Breed on Thursday said she plans to immediately implement a number of proposals from a new report on San Francisco's economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, including a universal basic income (UBI) program that will provide $1,000 a month for local artists.

The report released by the San Francisco Economic Recovery Task Force (ERTF) provided 41 recommendations to counter the negative effects of the pandemic on the city's economy.

The proposed pilot UBI program is part of the city's plans to direct nearly $6 million in funding for artists, teaching artists, arts organizations, and cultural workers. The UBI program will provide up to 130 artists with $1,000 a month for at least six months starting early 2021.

The city started the task force back in early April to find ways to counter an anticipated budget deficit of $1.6 billion, caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Besides the UBI pilot program, the report recommends measures such as funding new public works projects, reducing regulations on businesses and extending the Shared Spaces program, which allows for businesses to expand into public areas.

"The recommendations released today are a reflection of the immediate needs and aspirations of our Task Force and community. I am especially proud that we never lost sight of the need to rebuild more equitably so that all our communities can prosper," said Assessor Carmen Chu, ERTF Co-Chair.

Mayor London Breed said that the city intends to implement some of the recommendations as soon as possible, including the UBI pilot program for artists.

"San Francisco is only at the beginning of what we know is going to be a long road to recovery," Breed said.

A basic income program is a centuries-old idea where a government provides stipends for all its citizens just for living, thereby alleviating poverty. Alaska implemented one almost 40 years ago where a percentage of oil revenues are annually dispensed to all of its residents.

"Universal basic income is a simple idea that could have a radical impact on our society: give people enough money to meet their basic needs, providing everyone in the country with an income floor," states the Universal Income Project, which advocates for UBI programs in the San Francisco Bay Area. "Basic income could eliminate absolute poverty, support entrepreneurship and creativity, and allow every American to share in the prosperity that we have created together as a nation."

The UBI program for San Francisco artists comes after the city's seen its creative worker population decreases immensely due to market forces. A survey of San Francisco artists in 2015 found that over 70% of respondents had to move out of the city due to rising rents and that the other 30% were concerned with rising rents.

The city is also implementing other ERTF recommendations for helping San Francisco's artist community in the wake of the pandemic. The arts commission will be dispensing funds to assist arts organizations in reopening safely, and will create a website to provide local artists information on jobs and financial assistance opportunities. Also, the Office of Economic and Workforce Development created a $265,000-fund to pay artists to paint murals with a public health theme on boarded up businesses.

To learn more about the ERTF's recommendations, visit

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