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St. Paul mayor launches guaranteed income program, 150 families could get $500 a month

The People's Prosperity Pilot will give up to 150 families in St. Paul $500 a month for 18 months.

As many as 150 families in St. Paul could receive $500 a month starting this fall as part of an 18-month guaranteed income pilot program. 

St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter in Thursday signed Executive Order 2020-24 authorizing the creation of the People's Prosperity Pilot, the city's Guaranteed Income Demonstration Program.

It will see 150 families selected for the People's Prosperity Pilot randomly from the CollegeBound Saint Paul families, who are from the city's most racially diverse and lowest-wealth neighborhoods, which includes Midway, Frogtown, Union Park, Dayton's Bluff, Payne-Phalen, Battle Creek-Highwood, North End and Thomas-Dale.

The city says these areas have been identified as neighborhoods that have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 based on a report by Wilder Research and Family Housing Fund. The median household income in these neighborhoods is roughly $35,000 a year. 

Those selected will be contacted to complete enrollment and will have to verify they've been impacted by the pandemic, as well as meet other criteria. 

“More than ever before, this economic crisis has pushed families into crisis, struggling to maintain basic necessities for their children,” Mayor Melvin Carter said in a news release. “This demonstration pilot is an exciting new approach to support our most vulnerable families while helping build the case for permanent guaranteed income programs at state and federal levels.”

The projected budget of up to $1.5 million will be supported through the Mayors For Guaranteed Income national network (Earlier this summer, Carter joined the Mayors For Guaranteed Income coalition), as well as philanthropy and city CARES Act funds. 

“A guaranteed income for Saint Paul families who are struggling more than ever is an essential step for the stability our residents deserve,” Ward 4 Council member Mitra Jalali said. “Our city has the chance to both help our residents in a crisis and contribute to national research that could restructure a more fair economy for all.”

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“The divide between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ has never been more clearly on display. In our rich, developed nation, billionaire employers hire people at poverty wages and government programs are errantly designed to keep people stuck in low wage jobs with no path upward,” Council President Amy Brendmoen said.

"I am proud that leadership in Saint Paul continues to create innovative ways to break cycles of poverty. The guaranteed income pilot program gives us an opportunity to directly impact our most vulnerable community members by leveraging private partnerships and non-local funding sources. It is my hope that this 18-month test will demonstrate a new approach that can be taken to a broader level.”

The Office of Financial Empowerment will staff and support the pilot program, with families in the program receiving their funds on a Focus Card, which is used by many public benefits programs. 

The city is still determining what the tax implications for the families in the program will be and is pursuing an income and asset exclusion from the state to minimize the impact. 

Updates about the program will be posted on the People’s Prosperity Guaranteed Income Pilot Program website here.

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