The Black Resilience Fund will provide dozens of Portland families with a guaranteed basic income for three years, with the first checks being issued in December.
More than 11,000 applicants had applied by the deadline this week for about 50 spots in Brown Hope’s 2023 Village Building Cohort model, which will give $1,000 to single participants and up to $2,000 to participating families, per month.
“The Black Resilience Fund was created specifically at the height of COVID during the response to the murder of George Floyd,” said Cameron Whitten, activist and founder of Brown Hope and the Black Resilience Fund. The Skander. “We raised $2.6 million over two years and distributed that funding directly to Black Portlanders. Now we recognize the inevitable truth that we are emerging into a post-pandemic world and how we approach recovery and resilience is going to be different. For us, the answer was simple: a guaranteed income.
From the city of Stockton, California, to the nations of Finland, Kenya and others, guaranteed income programs have been introduced on a small scale, allowing policy makers to observe the impact of direct cash transfers on populations often vulnerable. The idea of a universal basic income isn’t new, but has recently gained traction with proponents like former presidential candidate Andrew Yang, and organizations like Mayors for Guaranteed Income in the United States. point out that such measures would end poverty.
“We’re talking about investing in Black Portlanders with no paperwork, no bureaucracy,” Whitten said.
“That’s not the way government usually works. That’s not how big foundations usually work.
Brown Hope’s initial program has a budget of $500,000, much of which comes from community donations. With a $100,000 matchmaking campaign from the Oregon Community Foundation, the organization is more than halfway to its goal.
Applicants to the Black Resilience Fund Basic Income Program must be at least 18 years old, identify as Black, African American, or African, and reside in Multnomah County. Priority is given to single parents, those who have been incarcerated, workers earning less than two dollars of Portland’s hourly minimum wage, and those who have been through the foster care system.
Single applicants are eligible for monthly payments of $1,000, while adults with one or two children are eligible for $1,500 and adults with three or more children can apply for $2,000 per month.
The program’s income limits for applicants take into account the high annual costs of child care. A household of four or more, for example, can bring in up to $74,745 a year and still qualify.
Data from other such programs internationally come to the same conclusion: providing guaranteed income—even income that isn’t enough to fully replace a salary—takes participants away from the mindset survival, which improves physical and mental health outcomes and family stability.
“Brown Hope and the Black Resilience Fund, we are not an economic justice initiative,” Whitten said.
“We are a healing justice initiative, and it goes beyond finances.”
Similar programs tend to last about a year. Whitten explained how the Black Resilience Fund decided to create a three-year model.
“I think the biggest challenge we’ve seen with basic income pilots and projects in the US is that they lasted a year, and a lot of them also cost $1,000 a month,” Whitten said. “But we know that long-term resilience happens over a longer time horizon than a year. We believe we set people up for their greatest success with a three-year time investment.
“One year of basic income isn’t enough to be able to do well in school, or to take time out for job training, or to start a family,” Whitten said. “These are things that we know take planning, and for a lot of people that first year is going to take the weight of the worry off, take the stress out of the scarcity. This second year builds that abundance mindset, builds confidence and self-belief. The third year is take-off. That’s how I see it. »
Survival and dignity
Stacey Rutland, founder and director of the Portland-based Income Movement, argued that the COVID crisis has given Americans a taste of guaranteed basic income.
“In addition to the drastic jolts to our broader economy, I think the pandemic was the first time our government decided to deal with an economic downturn by giving money directly to people,” Rutland said. The Skander. “So you’ve got the stimulus checks, you’ve got the child tax credit that was in effect for six months last year, and we’re certainly seeing those bold moves have had quite a big impact on poverty rates in across the country, and have certainly moved a lot more. people who are elected to boldly support direct cash and basic income or much more open to conversation, and interested in digging deeper into the data from many federal programs that have been put in place.
Rutland said the unlimited nature of direct cash payments is central to every basic income program.
“It’s absolutely rooted in the importance of finally acknowledging the complexity of people’s lives not just as individuals, but even on a month-to-month basis,” Rutland said. The Skander.
“He recognizes that their needs are very fluid and that they are the best experts on their own financial situation.
“A lot of programs right now are prescriptive, they’re paternalistic in the sense that the people who write and design these programs assume they know what’s best for people.”
“I think the beautiful thing is that we trust the Black Portlanders,” Whitten said. “We know that the people who participate in this program have big dreams of healing, for themselves and for the black community. This is the big thing we look for when reviewing these apps.
“We are looking for people who understand that their resilience is tied to the resilience of black people living in Multnomah County.”
Perhaps the best case studies, Rutland notes, come from a successful but temporary federal measure.
“We look at the child tax credit as guaranteed income for families,” Rutland said, “and when there was all the debate last fall about extending it for a year, with senators (Joe ) Manchin ((D-West Virginia)) and a few others, there was a lot of conversation around, ‘Should we give parents money? They should have to work or they’re going to use the money to buy food. drugs” – it was largely what we understand to be the false narratives out there that demonize people living in poverty.
“But you look at the child tax credit data, and you can see what they were using the checks for and it was to pay bills, it was to put food on the table, it was to getting caught up on their credit card bills, it was minimizing the number of transactions with payday loan places – it’s profound, the impact of it.
“So a lot of what we recognize for the pilots as well is to help build not only the quantitative data, but also just as important, the qualitative data – the stories of people’s experiences on the ground – so that we can begin to do some of the system shifting and broader storytelling work that we need to eventually open minds by opening hearts to receive the data.
Whitten admits it will be difficult to select the program’s first cohort from the multitude of applications received by the Black Resilience Fund.
“What we are really looking for are people who have a very clear dream of resilience and growth for themselves over the next three years, and people who have really demonstrated an investment in improving the resilience of the black community. around them,” Whitten said. .
“Because we’re really a village-building program, and we know who we’re investing in is investing in the black community.”
The program includes a “social capital component,” Whitten said.
“Every participant is expected to attend a monthly social gathering, because our community is not only facing a shortage of finances, but a shortage of connections. Racism, whether it’s gentrification, discrimination, ongoing trauma in the news – those things make people feel small, alienate them from the community. And so people don’t feel safe and people feel lonely.
“I will argue to the teeth that social connections are just as important for financial stability, and so for us we know that the strongest form of healing will be to incorporate both that monthly income in addition to gathering spaces social for people to be able to build together.
Rutland pointed to the overall benefit of guaranteed income.
“A lot of pilots focus on the members of our communities who have been most consistently pushed to the wayside, and ultimately the people who, to many degrees, have struggled with the way our systems are currently set up” , she said. “I think we’re finally starting to recognize that when you design for the less fortunate members of our community, you’re going to take care of everyone else.”
Applications are now closed for the first round of the Basic Income Program. For more information about the program, visit blackresiliencefund.com.