Universal Basic Income set to launch

Former Democratic presidential Andrew Yang speaks at the University of Chicago on Dec. 5, 2019. Yang is spearheading a Universal Basic Income initiative in Hudson. Abel Uribe/Chicago Tribune/TNS

HUDSON — Hudson residents have until Sunday night to apply for the Hudson UP Universal Basic Income pilot, which will provide 25 people with $500 each month for five years.

Any Hudson resident over 18 who earns less than $35,153 per year is eligible to apply at HudsonUP.org.

The grantees will be chosen by a lottery system, with people of marginalized identities — such as Black women — having an increased chance of winning, but everyone will have a opportunity, Mayor Kamal Johnson said during an online panel with former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang on Thursday.

There have been other Universal Basic Income trials across the country, but the financial involvement from Yang’s organization, Humanity Forward, is unique to Hudson.

About half of Hudson’s UBI initiative is funded by Humanity Forward, whose funds come from donors. The rest of the funding comes from other donors, including Spark of Hudson and former Duke University basketball star J.J. Redick, who donated $75,000.

Redick knew Yang and wanted to contribute to a UBI initiative, so Yang connected the basketball player to HudsonUp, Johnson said.

“If you are in Hudson and you’re wondering where the heck this money is coming from, it’s coming from human beings who believe that other human beings should have the opportunity to prosper and live in a way that’s more positive and befitting citizens of a country that has this level of wealth and resources,” Yang said. “So it’s just coming from people. It’s coming from other human beings who want to do the right thing.”

A group called Mayors for Guaranteed Income has brought mayors together from 25 cities across the country who have similar visions.

“I am pumped to see these trials take place around the country. We’re just getting started, and mayors know best what’s going to help their community. They see it every single day,” Yang said.

Yang is from Schenectady, and has been friends for years with Spark of Hudson founders Albert Wenger and Susan Danziger, who he knows through the entrepreneurship community.

“I have spent time in Hudson and have a lot of affection for the town, and so when the Spark of Hudson and Hudson UP approached Humanity Forward and said, ‘We’d like to initiate a Universal Basic Income trial in Hudson,’ knowing the town like we did, we said, ‘Wow, that would be tremendous,’” Yang said.

Humanity Forward was looking for a place to implement a trial, and Hudson seemed like a great fit.

“It’s almost the size of the average small town in the United States of America, so if you were to imagine a town that’s emblematic of much of the country, Hudson, New York, would be high on the list,” Yang said.

Since Hudson is fairly small, people will feel the impact in the community, Yang said. Hudson’s socioeconomic and racial diversity also makes it a good fit for the trial, he said.

“Having spent time in Hudson, Hudson is like many other parts of the country where there’s some great things going on and then there’s some real struggles. So to me, it’s a microcosm of what a bunch of America is going through,” Yang said.

“Universal Basic Income would help virtually any town around the country, and we’re excited to see what it does in Hudson,” he added.

Johnson and Yang said they believe the funds will wind up in the Hudson economy. Johnson said he had doubts at first about Yang’s Universal Basic Income vision for the country.

“But then after hearing you [Yang] speak and also being a part of Mayors for Guaranteed Income and going through this pilot, I learned so much that this is actually not something that is radical, but it’s actually very practical,” Johnson said.

Yang dispelled myths about Universal Basic Income programs, including that it discourages people from working or that people would do negative things with the funds.

“It turns out that most people do great things with economic resources because it’s in their hands and they know best how to solve their own problems,” he said.

Johnson said part of the reason he supports the initiative is the stigma that people are poor because they don’t work hard.

“In reality, poor people are some of the hardest working people,” Johnson said.

He said he comes from a single-parent home where his mother worked three or four jobs and they were still poor.

“Five hundred dollars a month extra could have done so much for my family,” he said.

Yang said the Universal Basic Income model is not new.

“It’s not a new idea. It’s an idea that has been with us since its founding. [Revolutionary War era writer] Thomas Paine was for it. Later, Martin Luther King was for it. It almost became law under [President Richard] Nixon.

“Milton Friedman, the economist who most people regard as fairly conservative, was for it. So there’s a very rich history behind Universal Basic Income, and I’m glad that I helped introduce it to more Americans right as we needed it most,” Yang said.

Yang urged Hudson residents to apply, saying the chances of getting into the program are high because of the size of the city.

“Someone you know is going to be a participant in this, I just about guarantee,” he said. “It might as well be you. I mean, who the heck wants to know the person when you can be the person?”

UBI trials like this one can demonstrate to Congress the significant impact the initiative can have on people’s lifestyles and well-being, Yang said.

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(1) comment

hudsonman1

what a waste of money.

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