What Is Universal Basic Income (UBI)?

Millions of Americans are dealing with poverty. In fact, as of 2020 roughly 37.25 million people were living below the poverty line. When people deal with financial hardship it can be difficult to get the items they need like housing, food, and more. Even if they do have the essentials it can be hard to keep up with bills that come along with them like gas prices for a car, the light bill for a home, etc. One way that some people want to combat this problem is through Universal Basic Income (UBI). However, not everyone knows what UBI is or even how it may be able to help. If you are one of these people, hopefully this article can make it clear!

Understanding Universal Basic Income (UBI)

UBI is a government program where every adult citizen would get a certain amount of money on a regular basis. The goal of this type of program is to help individuals that are in poverty as well as replace other need-based social programs that the government offers (that may require more involvement from the government). This idea isn’t new though! It just recently has been sparking more conversations in the United States. However, the idea of UBI has been around for hundreds of years.  While there have been financial assistance opportunities in America like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), tax credit opportunities, etc. There has never been UBI.

How Do People Feel About UBI?

There are plenty of people who support UBI. On the other hand, there are plenty of people that do not think UBI is something that should be in society. For example, during the 2020 presidential campaign, candidate Andrew Yang proposed giving all Americans that are over 18 years old $1,000 every month. This would give Americans $12,000 every year! However, this was just an idea because he ultimately didn’t make it far in the presidential race.

On the other hand, there are people that are against the idea of UBI. The biggest obstacle is the fact that it costs so much money to provide this relief. If we still use Andrew Yang’s plan as an example of giving Americans $12,000 every year then it would cost roughly $2.8 trillion annually. There are ways to help deal with this cost. For example, Andrew Yang proposed that there be a reduction in other social programs, as well as more tax for businesses and carbon emissions. However, those efforts wouldn’t be enough to cover the cost completely.

Besides cost, another reason that people don’t support UBI is because of the impact they believe it will have on the workforce. When people are getting free money, people believe that they will likely not have as much of a drive to work. However, a counterpoint to that argument is that people cannot live off $12,000 a year so the funds would just be used to help supplement their income.

Are There Places in America That Have UBI?

Even though there are no national programs that provide UBI to Americans, there are places that have a guaranteed income to qualifying individuals. Some places that have a fixed income available to residents includes:

  • Tacoma, Washington
  • Oakland, California
  • Columbia, South Carolina

However, just like other government assistance programs, these options are meant for individuals that qualify. For example, in Tacoma, Washington, there are only 110 participants that can get $500 a month for one year. This program isn’t available forever and ends in December 2022. That means you may benefit from seeing if there are any opportunities available for your town. You may be in for a surprise!

Other Assistance Opportunities

While UBI may not be available for Americans any time soon, there are other assistance opportunities that may be able to help those dealing with financial hardship. Some other programs that you can consider includes:

  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
  • Housing Choice Voucher Program

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

A popular assistance opportunity for those in need is TANF. TANF is a program that will give grants to states (and territories) to use so they can provide financial assistance and support services. This means that it will vary by state! However, even though it will vary by state, people can typically expect to see assistance with child care, job preparation, employment, and more.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

A popular assistance option for low-income Americans is SNAP. SNAP is a food assistance program that can support those in need through an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card. This card will receive funds on it every month and can be used at stores that accept them as a form of payment. It’s important to note that the card can only be used on qualifying items! This would include groceries like dairy products, fruits, vegetables, meat products, etc. The amount you will be able to get will vary depending on factors like the state, your income level and family size.

Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)

When dealing with different levels of poverty, people can find themselves between a rock and a hard place. That’s because they may make too much to qualify for Medicaid, but don’t make enough to handle the costs of health insurance from the marketplace. That is where CHIP comes in. CHIP is a health coverage assistance opportunity that can help families. Through CHIP, children up to 19 years old get low-cost health coverage but each program will vary by state.

Housing Choice Voucher Program 

The housing choice voucher program is a housing assistance opportunity for low-income Americans. It is also commonly called Section 8 and varies by state. This opportunity provides support by offering housing vouchers to individuals that qualify. Eligibility will be based on factors like income level, eviction history, family size, etc. The amount that the vouchers will be will depend on eligibility factors like income level and family size.

Vouchers can be used at properties that accept them! Recipients can find their own properties but since it’s limited to only ones that accept housing vouchers then it can be difficult to find the right place to live. It’s also important to note that this program will likely have waitlists. Waitlist times can be anywhere from months to years so you may not be able to actually receive the assistance as quickly as you may think.

Bottom Line

UBI is a government program where every adult citizen would get a certain amount of money on a regular basis. The goal of this type of program is to help individuals that are in poverty as well as replace other need-based social programs that the government offers (that may require more involvement from the government). While there is nothing like UBI in America just yet, there may be local assistance opportunities that can provide a fixed income. However there are other government assistance programs that can help you with life expenses like TANF, SNAP, CHIP, and Section 8.

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