Saint Louis, MO

New law gives $9,000 in guaranteed income to these families

Beth Torres

The new year might be a little bit brighter for some families thanks to a recently announced guaranteed income program. The program has three primary goals: to provide cash assistance to low-income families, provide career and job training opportunities for young people, and expand access to health care.

In December, St. Louis Mayor Tishaura O. Jones announced the availability of cash assistance for families through the Working Families Bill (BB116). The money is part of a guaranteed basic income pilot program that will give 440 selected St. Louis families $500 monthly payments. Families will receive the money each month for 18 months for a total of $9,000 per family.

Where does the money come from to fund this program?

St. Louis government officials will use money allocated to Missouri from the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The federal government established this source of funding to help states recover from the negative impacts of the pandemic.

St. Louis will use $52 million from ARPA to cover the costs of the Working Families Bill. A portion of these funds will go toward establishing the St. Louis guaranteed basic income program, which will be the first program of its kind in Missouri.

About $13 million will expand health care offered through four federally qualified health centers located in north and south St. Louis. The goal is to help address the disparities in health care that arose in these areas in the aftermath of the pandemic.

Approximately $10 million will go toward assisting young people through diversion programs, violence prevention, career opportunities, and job training programs. The St. Louis Bureau of Behavioral Health will use $2 million for substance abuse prevention.

Who qualifies for this guaranteed income?

If you are interested in applying for this St. Louis program, you will need at minimum to meet these qualifications:

  1. You must be a resident who is the parent or legal guardian of a child enrolled in a city of St. Louis public school.
  2. You must prove you suffered an adverse impact due to the pandemic.
  3. Based on your family size and household income, you must be at or below 170 percent of the federal poverty level.

If the St. Louis program is anything like other guaranteed income programs launched in cities and states throughout the nation, the number of applicants will far exceed the number of recipients the program can accommodate. For this reason, it’s likely the program will determine recipients through a lottery system.

The city has not yet announced the exact process for applying. However, if you would like to learn more about the Working Families Bill, you can read Mayor Tishaura O. Jones’ announcement or the legislation’s text.

Criticism of guaranteed income programs

Advocates of guaranteed income programs say that direct cash payments to struggling families can help lift them out of poverty. Research completed by Stanford’s Basic Income Lab indicates that unconditional cash payments assists families in building financial security, pursuing educational and job training opportunities, and provides resilience in meeting unexpected expenses.

On the other hand, this video from KSDK News highlights the concerns some officials have regarding transparency in how recipients spend the money. Some question the overall long-term effectiveness of basic income programs:

Interested in applying for a guaranteed income program in your area?

I’ve written several articles about different programs that have launched throughout the country. These are some of the more popular programs I’ve covered:

What are your thoughts on the new St. Louis program providing families with guaranteed income?

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