Working Families Bill Establishes Guaranteed Basic Income Pilot

Pilot program established by the Working Families Bill will support public school children by providing direct cash payments to their families.

December 28, 2022 | 2 min reading time

Today Mayor Jones announced the signing of the Working Families Bill (BB116)—a measure that supports St. Louis residents adversely affected by the pandemic and the related economic crisis. Programs in the bill expand healthcare access for underserved residents and increase public safety by funding youth programs.

Also contained in the bill is a Guaranteed Basic Income (GBI) pilot program to support public school children and their families. The trial program provides monthly payments of $500.00 to approximately 440 St. Louis households for 18 months. Applicants must meet the following criteria to qualify for the program:

  1. They must be a parent or legal guardian of a child enrolled in the St. Louis Public School system.
  2. They must have suffered a negative impact from the COVID-19 pandemic. 
  3. They must have a median household income at or below 170% of the federal poverty level.

Supporting families with school children is an intentional move to combat youth poverty. Nearly 20% of St. Louis Public School students experience housing instability—making academic achievement nearly impossible. A student-focused GBI program is also an investment in youth education which plays a key role in reducing poverty long-term. 

Findings from similar programs show that struggling families use these monthly payments to: 

  • Make essential purchases (groceries, utilities, transportation, etc.)
  • Cover childcare expenses—allowing caregivers to return to work
  • Take time off from hourly wage-work to seek higher paying jobs
  • Find better housing or maintain housing despite rising rent and property costs

Each use alleviates financial instability, supports academic achievement and creates an opportunity for families to end the cycle of poverty. 

The Guaranteed Basic Income pilot program is funded through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). This federal response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the corresponding economic crisis builds a path toward national economic recovery. The City of Saint Louis was awarded $498 million in Coronavirus State Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) from the American Rescue Plan. $5 million of that funding will finance the Guaranteed Basic Income pilot. 

The Treasurer’s Office will administer the GBI program and release more information once the application process has been established. Recipients will receive financial coaching to fully understand how enrollment in this pilot program may affect their other federal, state and local benefits.

A corresponding study will measure the program’s impacts on recipients. Those findings could influence a Universal Basic Income program that would provide direct cash assistance to all St. Louis residents who are struggling financially. Cities across the United States—including Atlanta, Louisville, New Orleans, and Baltimore—are piloting small scale basic income programs to help decision-makers better understand their effectiveness.

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