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Tacoma launching guaranteed income program

Old City Hall is front and center in this aerial shot of the Tacoma city skyline.
Aaron Bender
/
Courtesy of Over Tacoma
Old City Hall is front and center in this aerial shot of the Tacoma city skyline.

This summer, money is coming to some Tacoma residents. It’s part of a new guaranteed income program launching in a number of cities across the country.

As part of what officials are calling Growing Resilience In Tacoma, or GRIT, at least 100 residents will receive a monthly $500 stipend for a year.   

Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards says even before the pandemic families were struggling to make ends meet, with nearly 40% of Americans reporting they wouldn’t be able to afford an unexpected expense of $400.  

Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards
Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards

“We talk a lot about equity and the importance of supporting those who need it the most, and in my opinion, this is one way to not just talk the talk, but walk the walk,” Woodards said in a press briefing about the new program.

An estimated 40% of four-person households in Tacoma make less than $52,000 a year and could qualify for the program. An overwhelming majority of them identify as Black, Indigenous or people of color. From that pool, at least 100 households will be randomly chosen.

Experts say the real cost of health care, utilities, transportation, and other essential living expenses can add up to more than $72,000 a year in Pierce County.

But Lori Pfingst of the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services says the new effort is about more than just money.   

“This is about more than just economics. This is about dignity, letting people know that they belong and that because you're a human being, that you have value,” Pfingst said. 

Tacoma is one of 22 cities already running or planning to run mayor-led guaranteed income programs. Other cities include Compton, Calif., Richmond, Va., and St. Paul, Minn. 

A group known as Mayors for a Guaranteed Income, founded in June 2020, now includes 46 mayors, representing more than 20 million people.  

 

Woodards said in Tacoma money for the program will not come from taxpayer dollars but private funding, with the help of United Way of Pierce County, Greater Tacoma Community Foundation, Sound Outreach, Tacoma Urban League and Tacoma Housing Authority.

 

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy & Practice, who have established the Center for Guaranteed Income Research, plan to work with the city of Tacoma, as well as other cities, to gain insights into the benefits of guranteed income programs.