THE MAYOR of Oakland is being accused of racism after launching a program to award black families earning under $59,000 an extra $500 a month over the next year and a half.
Mayor Libby Schaaf announced the guaranteed income project on Tuesday which will give the money to 600 black and indigenous families on a lottery basis with no strings attached.
The Oakland Resilient Families program is the latest trial of a “guaranteed income” system of wealth distribution, CNN reports, where residents are given a set amount of money to supplement other income.
The city claims the extra money, which will amount to $9,000 in total, will target wealth disparities among residents.
It comes after the Oakland Equality Index revealed the median income for black families is three times below white families.
“The poverty we all witness today is not a personal failure, it is a systems failure,” Schaaf said in a statement.
“Guaranteed income is one of the most promising tools for systems change, racial equity, and economic mobility we’ve seen in decades.”
However, the progam has been criticized as the city still has 10,000 white residents living in poverty, according to DailyMail.com.
It totals eight percent of Oakland’s residents.
It sparked debate online with one commenter on Reddit stating: ‘Poor is poor. Being poor and white sucks, you may not get locked up for trivial s**t like our dark-skinned brothers and sisters but it’s no secret that White Privilege always has and always will require a certain shade of green to your name.’
‘Is this even legal? Can a city government legally have a program that’s only for certain races?’ another asked.
According to the Oakland Equity Index, the 2016 median household income for white families in Oakland was $110,000, for Asians $76,000, Latinos had a median household income of $65,000, and black families just $37,500.
“We know that poverty is complex, but this is a simple solution, and we believe it’s time has come to become federal policy,” Schaff has said.
In order to qualify for the program, which is funded by private philanthropists, residents must have at least one child under 18 and an income at or below $59,000.
Half of the available spots on the program are reserved for families whose income is below 138 percent of the federal poverty level.
That would amount to around $30,000 per year for a family of three.
The city will release a screening form later this year through which will pick families at random to receive the payments.
Recipients will not be required to work and so the money is not considered taxable income.
Undocumented and homeless families can also apply, CNN states.
The Oakland Resilient Families program has already raised $6.75 million to date in donations and said that at least 80 percent of the funds will be distributed this year.
A “guaranteed income” program was previously introduced in Stockton, California, in 2019, when 100 residents began receiving unconditional $500 payments.
Similar initiatives were also established in Newark, New Jersey; and Atlanta, Georgia.
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“One of my hopes in testing out a guaranteed income is that other cities would follow suit, and I’m thrilled that Oakland is among the first,” Tubbs told CNN.
“By focusing on BIPOC residents, the Oakland Resilient Families program will provide critical financial support to those hardest hit by systemic inequities, including the pandemic’s disproportionate toll on communities of color.”
Oakland’s program comes after it was announced this week that Evanston, Illinois, would become the first US city to war reparations to black residents.