The increase in the cost of living is leading many people to poverty. In 2020, about 37 million people in America were living below the poverty line. When people are struggling with poverty, they are usually forced to make sacrifices when it comes to necessities such as housing and healthcare. Poverty can also affect other daily aspects such as transportation. Luckily, different solutions could help people that are in poverty. Among these solutions is Universal Basic Income (UBI).
What is Universal Basic Income (UBI)?
Universal Basic Income (UBI) is a program where every adult citizen would receive a fixed amount of money from the government regularly. The idea behind the program is to help lift people out of poverty. Besides that, it aims to decrease people’s dependency on need-based social programs that the government offers. UBI is not a new idea–it just hasn’t been implemented in the U.S at the national level. Instead, the U.S. government has a bunch of other assistance programs that help people.
What is the Public Opinion About UBI?
Many people are in favor of UBI. However, others are against it. Let’s break down these opinions so you can get a better idea of why people feel the way that they do. First, many people like the idea of UBI because it can be a supplemental income. For example, during the 2020 presidential elections, one candidate was Andrew Yang. Yang wanted to implement UBI for America. His plan was to give $1,000 to qualifying Americans every month. This means that eligible Americans would get $12,000 a year. It would be hard to live off of $12,000 for the whole year which is why this is a supportive supplemental income opportunity. The hope behind providing this financial assistance is that people could also get off programs that require a lot of involvement from the government.
However, many people are against UBI. These people believe that the cost is too high and that it can demotivate people to work. Yang had ideas around handling the cost such as reduction in other social programs as well as more taxes for businesses and carbon emissions. Sadly, even with these ideas, they wouldn’t fully cover the cost of the income that Americans would get.
Does UBI Exist in America?
There aren’t any national programs in place that provide UBI. However, few places in America guarantee a regular income for eligible people. These places provide a fixed income to qualifying residents, which includes:
- Tacoma, Washington
- Oakland, California
- Columbia, South Carolina
Just like every other government assistance program, these UBI-like programs also come with their own sets of qualifying criteria. In Oakland, California, only 600 people participate in their program. Those people are eligible to receive $500 a month for 18 months which started in 2020.
Other Kinds Of Help You Can Get From The Government
UBI is likely not happening anytime soon based on the cost alone. Instead, many government assistance programs can help you with your finances. Some of these programs include:
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
- Housing Choice Voucher Program
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
TANF provides grants to U.S. states and territories and in turn, states will provide financial assistance. The goal of TANF is to help families get to economic self-sufficiency. Since these grants are managed by states, TANF benefits may vary from one state to another. Also, the qualifications required to receive TANF assistance may differ in each state. Those who receive TANF benefits may find themselves receiving extra support services besides financial assistance, such as child care and job preparation.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
Unfortunately, when poverty strikes, many people may be forced to make unhealthy decisions about their nutrition. To combat this issue, the government put SNAP in place to help low-income households. Those who are eligible for SNAP will receive Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards. These cards allow eligible recipients to get the assistance they need.
The government will place money onto EBT cards every month, and cardholders may use them to buy eligible food items from stores that allow this form of payment. These food items include groceries such as dairy products, fruits, vegetables, meat products, and more.
Housing Choice Voucher Program (HCV)
Housing is such an expensive cost that Americans need to deal with. To solve this problem, the government created the Housing Choice Voucher Program to help many low-income households that have a hard time.
You can also find the program under the name “Section 8 housing.” The program aims to help low-income individuals and families afford safe, livable housing. To receive these vouchers, applicants must qualify for the program. The eligibility of applicants is determined by factors like their income level, eviction history, family size, and citizenship status. Moreover, the dollar amount voucher holders can claim through the vouchers will depend on those eligibility factors.
Those interested in the program will need to submit an application. If eligible, recipients are usually put on waitlists until they receive their vouchers. These waitlists can be pretty long (months, sometimes years). Once it is time to receive their voucher, voucher holders will need to find their new homes themselves in the private market. These homes must accept these vouchers. On top of that, these homes must meet certain standards that are set by the local managing agency which is a public housing authority (PHA).
UBI is a program where the government gives a fixed amount of money to every qualified adult on a regular basis. The whole point is to help people who struggle financially while reducing the load on need-based programs offered by the government. The idea of UBI isn’t exactly new, it just hasn’t been implemented in America. However, there may be local opportunities for UBI in your city. Luckily, besides UBI, there are plenty of government-backed assistance programs that could be helpful to those who need help like TANF, SNAP, Section 8, and more. You can still get support even if it isn’t through UBI!