Billionaire Jack Dorsey, the founder and CEO of the publicly traded tech giants Twitter and Square, on Thursday donated $15 million to a coalition of nearly 30 city mayors who’ve committed to testing out a guaranteed basic income program as Congress and the White House remain mired in negotiations on providing more financial assistance to businesses and the unemployed amid a worsening pandemic that’s slowing the economic recovery.
Made through his #startsmall initiative, Dorsey’s donation to Mayors For A Guaranteed Income will fund efforts by 29 mayors across the country to launch or expand guaranteed income pilots in U.S. cities that include Los Angeles, New Orleans, Philadelphia and Atlanta.
The coalition also includes the mayors of Columbia, S.C., and Pittsburgh, which are rolling out guaranteed income initiatives to provide a $500 monthly check to hundreds of residents facing financial hardship for a test period of 24 months.
With the new donation, every mayor in the coalition is guaranteed $500,000 to divvy out among residents meeting qualifications set by each city; payment amounts and pilot test lengths also vary by city.
Dorsey previously donated $3 million to the coalition of mayors in July, the month after Stockton, Calif. Mayor Michael Tubbs founded the initiative, citing the success of $1,200 stimulus payments in staving off an economic depression.
Tubbs became the first mayor to experiment with a universal basic income program in early 2019, giving $500 in no-strings-attached monthly income to 125 Stockton residents otherwise making less than $46,000 annually; that program is set to continue until January.
“We are a nation in crisis, and the last one of this scale yielded dramatic social reform; this is our New Deal moment,” Mayor Tubbs, a 2018 Forbes Under 30, said on Tuesday in a statement. “We need a social safety net that goes beyond conditional benefits tied to employment, works for everyone and begins to address the call for racial and economic justice through a guaranteed income.”
The idea of guaranteed and universal basic income has garnered more attention in recent years as progressive ways to reduce economic inequality while adding to Americans’ financial safety nets, but they haven’t picked up much traction on the federal front. Citing a lack of federal progress on stimulus negotiations, the coalition of mayors piloting guaranteed income, which is designed for residents who meet certain qualifications (as opposed to universal basic income, which would be for everyone), launched this summer with backing from Dorsey and the Economic Security Project as Americans’ personal savings, which surged after the first round of federal stimulus in April, reach a mid-pandemic low.
Also on Tuesday, Dorsey’s Square committed $10 million to companies working on green energy technologies within the energy-intensive bitcoin mining process and also announced it would become net-zero carbon for operations by 2030. Dorsey previously promised to give away $1 billion of his Square equity, then 28% of his net worth, to provide Covid-19 relief.
$11.4 billion. That’s how much Dorsey, who still owns shares in Twitter and Square, is worth, according to Forbes.
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