By: Stacey Rutland
When we started Income Movement two years ago, we thought the road to a federal basic income would be a long and winding one. When the pandemic hit and people lost their jobs overnight, that road became a lot shorter. The need to help people quickly and efficiently became a rallying cry of advocates and many politicians, and cash was the obvious answer.
Through expanded unemployment and a series of stimulus checks, we kept millions of people out of poverty. In fact, despite the utter financial devastation of the pandemic, we were able to actually make life better for people — a new analysis of the government’s mainly cash-based aid shows it led to a record drop in poverty levels.
And in July, we actually saw the implementation of a basic income for nearly every parent in the country with the expansion of the Child Tax Credit. Nearly 90% of families with kids began receiving a monthly deposit of up to $300 per child, to be spent however they see fit. The temporary expansion will provide those monthly payments through the end of the year, and then at tax time parents will receive an additional lump sum payment of up to $1,800. While it’s not given the name “basic income,” it essentially is: those who have no income qualify and there are no restrictions on how the money can be spent.
When the first payments hit on July 15, Income Movement joined with the Magnolia Mother’s Trust and the Marshall Plan for Moms to send a letter to the White House calling for the expansion to be made permanent. More importantly than the organizations who signed on were those who joined us — a mom from each of the 50 states, as well as Washington, D.C.
Many of them shared with us how they’ve been using the money, ranging from investing in childcare so one mom could return to work to buying an air conditioner for a toddler during the Pacific Northwest’s record-breaking heatwave.
“People should not have to crowdfund for the basic needs of their families.” — Jennifer from North Carolina
Christina, a mom of four from North Dakota, used the money to buy back-to-school supplies for her kids. She says if the program were made permanent, the results would be life changing:
“If the CTC shall become a permanent credit all families can rely on when raising their children, building wealth will coexist with having children and raising them in the United States. I would be able to build wealth for our family by having the time and money to take classes for a second degree in a field experiencing shortages now such as mental health or nursing. Women like me, all around the country could fill immense needs in our local schools, such as in teaching, counseling, coaching or tutoring, to county/state government positions, to corporate leadership positions if the CTC becomes permanent.”
Jennifer, who has two kids and lives in North Carolina, spent her first CTC payments to cover a medical appointment for her special-needs son. She spoke about the financial hardship her family has faced in the past:
“Like many people in the U.S. faced with hard times financially, whether medical or due to other circumstances, we had to start a GoFundMe. If not for my kids, I don’t think I would have done that, but there’s a point at which you’ll do anything to keep your kids safe and fed. Aside from the humiliation, and the both heartening and disheartening mix of extreme kindness and scorn I encountered, this should not be happening in the wealthiest country in the world. People should not have to crowdfund for the basic needs of their families.”
It’s clear that despite the individual financial needs each family faces, unrestricted cash is the one solution that provides the flexibility needed to address each unique circumstance.
The expanded CTC is an important step on the path toward a guaranteed income. But, it is a beginning and not an end.
To truly achieve an economy that works for everyone, we must continue to fight for a full basic income that will cover all who need it — not only those who have children.
We are doing just that as we close in on the annual Basic Income March, held in cities across the world on September 25. See if a city near you is participating here. We’ll be taking to the streets to demand leaders adopt and pass a federal basic income as a means to a healthier, more innovative and just society.
Through the march and Income Movement’s ongoing work to amplify the voices of grassroots supporters, we believe we’re closer than ever to achieving our ultimate goal of creating an equitable economy and shared prosperity for all through a federal basic income.
Stacey Rutland is the Founder of Income Movement.