The Oregon Senate is considering establishing a universal basic income program for homeless and low-income people in the state.
The program – the People’s Housing Assitance Fund Demonstration Program – would cost $25 million. Homeless people or individuals who are considered severely rent-burdened or at risk of homelessness, as well as anyone who earns less than 60% of their area’s median income, would qualify for 24 months of $1,000 payments.
The monthly payments can be spent at the recipient’s discretion. While proponents of the payments say the money would help defray the costs of rent, groceries and other expenses, opponents say the non-specific language of the legislation would allow payments to be spent on drugs or alcohol.
“The measure would call on Portland State University to study the impacts the payments have on recipients’ status and how the money is spent,” reports KATU2. “Results would be reported to the legislature before the 2024 session.”
The study would “estimate the costs of providing long-term cash assistance” to a variety of individuals and households. This includes separate estimates for households with children ages five and younger, households with children between the ages of six and 12, wards of the state who have aged out of foster care, individuals over the age of 58, people of color, people with disabilities, and veterans.
According to a report from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Oregon experienced the nation’s largest single-year decrease in homelessness between 2019 and 2020. The state’s homeless population decreased by 7.7% with 14,655 unhoused people across the state. Of this group, 2,660 were families with children, 1,314 were unaccompanied homeless youth, and 1,329 were veterans. The report noted that 4,123 people were considered chronically homeless.
“The federal review found 35 people in Oregon experiencing homelessness per 10,000 people,” reports OPD. “Only three states had a worse rate, New York City (47 people per 10,000), Hawaii (46 people per 10,000) and California (41 people per 10,000).”
State Senator Wlnsvey Campos, the Democrat who sponsored the monthly payment bill, has proposed a trial of the program to be implemented by Jan. 1, 2024 and terminated on Jan. 2, 2026.
The funding would be appropriated from the state’s general fund and the program would be overseen by the Department of Human Services.
A public hearing for the proposal was held on Feb. 27. The bill is currently being considered by the Senate Committee on Housing and Development.
Several cities across the country have enacted monthly income programs for homeless or low-income people.
“In New York, the government gave 2,400 artists payments of $1,000 over 18 months, 100 mothers $1,000 a month for three years, and 175 low-income families payments of $500, which will last for a year,” reports Outsider.
California’s West Hollywood launched a randomized UBI program in March of 2022. The program gave 25 people $1,000 a month for 17 months. The government of Phoenix, Arizona gives families that earn less than 80% of the area’s median income a monthly $1,000 payment. In 2022, Washington DC offered 100 expectant and new mothers $900 a month. Georgia established a program to give 650 elderly black women $850 a month for two years in April of 2022.
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