TACOMA, Wash. — Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards announced the next steps Thursday in a guaranteed income demonstration set to take place in late summer 2021.
The program, titled GRIT – Growing Resilience in Tacoma, will provide $500 a month to 100 families for a year. Organizers are hoping to start the program in the summer of 2021. The program will be administered by United Way of Pierce County. The money is meant to supplement the wages of families who are above the poverty line.
United Way will begin accepting applications for the program in June and July.
The program will focus on ALICE households – which stands for Asset Limited Income Constraint but Employed. ALICE households have an income but do not have enough saved to create a safety net, cover all of the essentials or cover a financial emergency. Their household budget is typically below $52,000 a year, according to United Way of Pierce County.
In Pierce County, 31% of all households qualify as ALICE households. In Tacoma, that number rises to 40% according to United Way of Pierce County CEO Dona Ponepinto. The cost of health care, utilities, transportation and other essential living expenses is over $72,000 in Tacoma, yet 50% of residents have a household income lower than that amount.
The program will also focus on single heads of households, Black, Indigenous and people of color who meet ALICE criteria in Tacoma. Participants will be selected at random from a pool of applicants by a research team at the University of Pennsylvania.
Neither the city of Tacoma nor United Way will track what participants do with the money, but anonymous tracking data will be used for research purposes.
"I think there is no better time that this project is absolutely needed as we struggle with COVID and coming out of COVID," Woodards said. "There is no better time to launch this demonstration project and to show not just local, but local, state and federal partners what a difference this could make in the lives of our community."
Woodards announced the program in December of 2020. Woodards is part of the group Mayors for a Guaranteed Income (MGI) – a group of about 30 mayors nationwide, including Woodards, who believe guaranteed income is critical to ending poverty. The group was formed in the summer of 2020.
Tacoma is slated to get $500,000 from the program – part of a $15 million donation Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey made to the group in the fall of 2020. MGI also gave the city a $100,000 grant for planning efforts.