St. Louis Mayor Signs Guaranteed Basic Income Bill

About 440 families in St. Louis will receive $500 a month for 18 months

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click to enlarge File photo of St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones. - Monica Obradovic
Monica Obradovic
File photo of St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones.

Over 400 St. Louis families adversely affected by the pandemic will receive monthly payments from the city. 

Mayor Tishaura Jones has signed Board Bill 116 to establish Missouri’s first guaranteed basic income pilot. The program allows about 440 parents or legal guardians of students enrolled in public schools in St. Louis city to receive $500 payments for 18 months. 

Upon enactment of the bill, St. Louis will join a growing list of cities that have launched similar programs. About 25 cities have piloted guaranteed basic income programs, with most targeted toward specific populations in need.

St. Louis’ basic income plan was designed for families that were adversely affected by the pandemic. Participants must be at or below 170% of the federal poverty level — for a family of four, that means living off about $47,000 a year. 

“From creating better opportunities for our youth to expanding access to healthcare, this bill is an investment directly in our communities still struggling to get back on their feet,” Jones said in a statement Wednesday. 

The guaranteed basic income program is just $5 million of Board Bill 116’s total $52 million American Rescue Plan Act appropriations. 

Four federally-qualified health centers in St. Louis will receive $13 million to bolster expansion. The Department of Human Services gets $14.86 million for emergency rental assistance, senior services and “housing stabilization,” according to the bill’s text. 

The bill also directs $2 million to the city’s new Bureau of Behavioral Health to combat substance misuse and abuse, while $10 million will go toward youth programming and year-round employment through the Office of Violence Prevention and St. Louis Agency on Training and Employment. 

In a statement, Office of Violence Prevention Director Wilford Pinkney said the city will use the money for youth to take a “holistic approach” to address crime. 

“Connecting our youth to the right resources and opportunities has been proven to deter them from a life of crime and violence,” Pickney said. 

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen passed Board Bill 116 with a 21-1 vote earlier this month. Initially, some aldermen were skeptical about the effectiveness of the guaranteed basic income program. 

The bill does not specify how recipients can spend the money, and Alderman Joe Vaccaro questioned how helpful it would be to provide payments to just a few hundred people when thousands live in poverty. 

Most aldermen ended up voting for the bill anyway in support of its other earmarks, although Alderwoman Lisa Middlebrook voted present and Alderman James Lappe abstained. The sole “no” came from Alderwoman Sharon Tyus, who said she wanted more transparency on the city’s direct cash assistance program from 2021. 

Ward 26 Alderwoman Shameem Clark Hubbard sponsored the bill. In a statement today, she cited Martin Luther King Jr., who championed guaranteed income as a means to fight poverty. 

“This bill is an example of what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of when he emphasized the beloved community,” Clark Hubbard said in a statement. “This bill is what it looks like to care for your neighbor as you care for yourself.”

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About The Author

Monica Obradovic

Monica Obradovic is a staff writer for the Riverfront Times.
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