Worcester awards funds for a universal basic income pilot program

Worcester is funding a new universal basic income program using money from the American Rescue Plan Act.

The Worcester Community Action Council announced Friday that it received $250,000 in funding from the city to pilot a program that will give a monthly stipend to 52 low-income households.

During the two-year program, participants will receive monthly payments between $100 and $500 on pre-loaded gift cards, which they can use as they see fit, according to the council's announcement.

Participants will have access to financial empowerment workshops and coaching. The program will also provide support for those who may be edged out of eligibility for public benefits like SNAP and housing vouchers if their income increases.

A guaranteed basic income can help reduce stress for families when they know that they have a buffer of extra cash on hand, said council Executive Director Marybeth Campbell. That will allow them to focus on other household goals, like job trainings and building credit.

"Ultimately, we hope can lift them into a situation where we frankly become obsolete for them over time," she said.

Participants will receive a monthly survey asking how they spent the money in categories like food, job training and housing. Campbell said the council will share the data collected.

"We want to make sure that data is clear and consistent and available for people and ideally, hopefully influence ways that we can raise more dollars to help expand and scale this," she said.

Cambridge announced a similar program in May, expanding on a pilot initiative that began in 2021. The city's $22 million program gives $500 each month to low income families with children over an 18-month period. Cambridge is also funding its program with money from the American Rescue Plan.


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