In January 2021 RBAC was approached by Councilmember Girmay Zahilay to implement the pilot project Guaranteed Basic Income (GBI) Program.  The GBI Program is also known as a citizen’s income, guaranteed minimum income, or basic income. The intention behind the payment is to provide enough to cover the basic cost of living and establish a sense of financial security for those participating in the project. This project is being implemented around the world.

Things moved quickly; first establishing who would be eligible, how the selection process would be implemented, what system we would use for interested candidates to apply, how to interview several candidates doing COVID-19, how to distribute a monthly $1,000 stipend, and provide resources to the participants for the next year. By March we had 5 participants chosen; 2 families with 8 in the household, 1 full-time student, 2 single household candidates to participate in the program. This would be a life-changing experience for the participants. The beginning was a challenge figuring out the payment process and setting them all up, by the second month it was all figured out.

For the next year participants would watch a monthly video and provide feedback on the impact the monthly stipend was making in their lives. The purpose for sharing the videos was so that participants could gain awareness of ways to become financially stable. Some of the videos shared were how to prep and plan your finances, budgeting, marking more money, building your credit score, how to be good to your money, 6 principles of personal finance and budgeting, 15 steps to force your way out of poverty, 15 lessons rich parents teach their kids that the poor don’t and more.

I didn’t realize that helping the participants through this process would also help myself, even though I wasn’t getting the stipend. I thought I would try it too, why not I didn’t have anything to lose. So, I watched every video and applied every principle just like they did. The impact made going through the program was phenomenal. Feedback and interviews demonstrate that debts were paid off, business startup, stress reduction, ability to pay rent through COVID, building a savings, providing family with basic essential needs, and increased credit score. Someone was even able to take a trip to visit family after not seeing them for years.

Now you tell me if the GBI Program makes an impact in the life of those living in poverty? It’s not a quick fix but it gave them a year to become more aware of the tools it takes to be financially stable and stress-free.