Universal income initiatives involve direct payments to residents in the hopes of improving their financial standing and reducing poverty while bolstering the economy. Some pilot programs have already been launched in cities around the country.
Yang said the idea has remained popular since he ended his presidential campaign, in large part because of the direct stimulus checks that went out to millions of Americans in the spring after the coronavirus pandemic hit.
“Universal basic income then went from this interesting idea to something crucial to our very survival,” Yang said.
More than two dozen mayors across the country, including Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, also came out in support of monthly, cash payments given directly to individuals. The idea has gotten the attention of people like Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, who donated $15 million last week to the group Mayors for a Guaranteed Income.
Farokhi is primarily looking to private, philanthropic donors to fund the pilot program in the Old Fourth Ward. It’s too early to say how many residents might receive the payments, or how much they’d get.
“This neighborhood has extreme poverty next to significant wealth, and we want to make sure that this a model neighborhood for economic [achievement],” Farokhi said.
Franklin, who was mayor from from 2002 to 2010 and serves as a co-chair of the Old Fourth Ward task force, said the idea would help combat the pervasive income inequality in Atlanta.
For many Atlantans, she said, “it is too difficult, way too difficult, to make it work financially, despite hard work. ... We need to consider bold solutions.”
While inequality is not unique to the Old Fourth Ward, Yang said, “I sense it is more extreme in this community than it is in some others, because of the growth that Atlanta has experienced.”
The New York-based tech entrepreneur also discussed his time in Georgia so far. One thing that surprised him about Atlanta?
“Buford Highway and the quality of the Asian food here in Atlanta,” Yang said, giving a shoutout to Food Terminal and Masterpiece. “I came here to try and help the country and help these campaigns win, and I ended up on a mini food tour!”