Free Money for All? Mayors Hope Local Tests Bring Big Change

The surge in interest in these so-called free money pilot programs shows how quickly the concept of just handing out cash, no strings attached, has shifted from far-fetched idea to serious policy proposal.

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FILE - In this April 19, 2021 file photo, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, right, talks with Michael Tubbs, founder of Mayors for a Guaranteed Income, after holding his annual State of the City address from the Griffith Observatory, in Los Angeles. In experiments across the country, dozens of cities and counties, some using money from the $1.9 trillion COVID relief package approved in March, and the state of California are giving some low-income residents a guaranteed income of $500 to $1,000 each month to do with as they please, and tracking what happens. (Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times via AP, Pool File)
Image via AP Photo/Gary Coronado

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By triggering $1,400 stimulus checks for millions of people and expanding the child tax credit for many families, the pandemic offered a clear takeaway for some officials: That putting tax dollars in people’s pockets is achievable and can be a lifeline to those struggling to get by. Now a growing number of mayors and other leaders say they want to determine for sure whether programs like these are the best way to reduce poverty, lessen…

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