Our current approach to supporting our most vulnerable isn’t working. If a consumer defaults on their student loan debt they can have their wages, tax returns, disability, and social security income garnished without a court order. If a TLC driver, who makes about $22,000 a year, cannot earn enough to pay back the $600,000 he owes to the bank for his taxi medallion there’s no net to catch him (even if the city was complicit in steering him towards that loan). If a family of four is living in NYCHA housing, odds are that they have been living without hot water, heating, or intermittent electricity and gas. COVID has only exacerbated the harsh reality for far too many New Yorkers on everything from homelessness to education. We cannot tinker around the edges of this worsening reality. We must respond with a new and robust approach.
If elected, I fully support pursuing the creation of a basic income program for our most vulnerable New York City residents. I agree with mayoral candidate Andrew Yang’s policy goal of ending extreme poverty in our city and would work with him, if we are both elected, to fund that goal. No work requirement needs to be fulfilled and no test needs to be passed. By the numbers, the 500,000 New Yorkers living in extreme poverty would benefit from $2,000 of cash relief per annum to start. That totals $1 billion per annum of our city budget. Once this program develops and expands it will be well worth the cost.
Such a program would strike at the heart of some of our city’s most pressing issues; homelessness, crime, and food insecurity. It would improve the mental and physical health of our most vulnerable, reduce instances of homelessness, hospitalization, and incarceration. UBI will foster job creation, economic development, and the long overdue equity that our city needs.
Here in District 29, we have been hurting for a long time. 1 out of 3 residents in Forest Hills, Rego Park, Kew Gardens, and Richmond Hill are severely rent burdened, paying more than 50% of their income just on rent. Food insecurity is rampant. Homelessness and crime have slowly but surely increased. This bold new approach has the potential to lift not only our district but every district into greater health, economic security, and public safety.
New York City already has the funding, the agencies, and the outreach capability in place to start this basic income program. All that is needed is the political will to act. If elected, I will actively support this effort.