Atlanta Mayor Bottoms joins other mayors exploring guaranteed income

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms participated in a digital discussion Monday, June 1, 2020 hosted by presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden with mayors of other metro areas about recent protests.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms participated in a digital discussion Monday, June 1, 2020 hosted by presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden with mayors of other metro areas about recent protests.

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced on Thursday that she would join 10 other mayors from across the nation to explore providing guaranteed incomes to disadvantaged residents.

The mayor's office issued a press release with few details about how such a program would work in Atlanta, and provided a link to a website called Mayors For Guaranteed Income, which listed Stockton, Calif. and Jackson, Miss. as having pilot programs.

“A guaranteed income is a monthly cash payment given directly to individuals, empowering recipients to address their most urgent needs and providing a cushion for unpredictable expenses, external shocks, and volatility,” a press release issued by the mayor’s office on Wednesday said. “It is unconditional and is meant to supplement, rather than replace, the existing social safety net.”

The press release said the group of mayors is a partnership with the Economic Security Project, an organization that disburses grants and identifies socioeconomic gaps, according to its website.

The mayors include Michael D. Tubbs of Stockton, Calif., where a pilot program has been providing $500 per month to 125 residents since February 2019, according to the website. Other members of the coalition include Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles, Melvin Carter of St. Paul, Minn., and Ras J. Baraka from Newark, N.J.

The announcement comes as Bottoms has been identified as a potential vice presidential candidate being vetted by Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee. Garcetti is a member of Biden's vice presidential selection committee.

“I am honored to join this powerful coalition of mayors as a founding member in this privately funded pilot program,” Bottoms said in a statement. “We know that economic security is a right and a necessity for all to thrive in this country. I look forward to the meaningful work we will do to continue to push our communities forward.”

Although Bottoms' statement says the pilot program is privately funded, the Mayors For Guaranteed Income website says raising tax rates on the wealthiest Americans is a possible way to fund such programs.

Bottoms’ press release highlights the nation’s historically high income inequality and how the COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed that gap, disproportionately harming Black and brown people.

Atlanta City Councilman Amir Farokhi launched an economic security task force two weeks ago that will specifically examine the potential of a guaranteed basic income pilot program. The Mayors for Guaranteed Income website says Chicago and Newark have also formed task forces exploring the feasibility of pilot programs, and that the Milwaukee City Council has directed creation of a pilot program.

Also on Thursday, Atlanta City Councilman Antonio Brown announced the formation of a 70-member task force of elected officials, community activists and organizers that will work to “dismantle systemic oppression that evoke uprisings,” such as those that have occurred across the country following the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer.

Brown said he planned to re-introduce legislation at Monday’s city council meeting that would withhold $73 million of the Atlanta Police Department’s $217 million operational budget until Bottoms’ administration drafts a plan to reform the department so that it is a “national model.”

Withholding the funds would provide the city council with leverage over the process. The measure was narrowly voted down by the council earlier this month.

Brown said his new ordinance would be named the Rayshard Brooks bill after the 27-year-old African American man shot by white Atlanta police offer Garrett Rolfe on the night of June 12, following a struggle in which Brooks wrestled away an officer’s Taser and fired it at police as he fled.

An autopsy revealed Brooks died from two gunshot wounds to his back.