ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — After a year and a half of planning, the City of Rochester is poised to launch a pilot program that would give $500 a month to roughly 350 families living in poverty, starting this spring.
Back in 2021, then-mayor Lovely Warren submitted a proposal for the program, called Guaranteed basic income (GBI), just hours before her resignation. It was quickly approved by city council.
Details are still being finalized, and have been tweaked as program implementation is developed and fine-tuned, said Reverend Myra Brown, executive director of the Black Community Focus Fund, Inc. (BCFF). The charity is working closely with the city to develop the GBI pilot.
The program has not yet set a specific date for launch, according to both Brown and city representatives, but the plans remain set for spring.
The initial proposal said that 175 Rochester families at or below 200% of the federal poverty level will receive $500 per month for one year. The next year, a new group of 175 families at a similar financial status will be chosen.
The details from the latest finalized proposal have not yet been released.
The program is estimated to cost $2.2 million, pulled from the City of Rochester’s $202 million American Rescue Plan act funding. The bulk of that will go to families, with $100,000 in administration and program management paid over two years to BCFF.
Many iterations of fixed monthly payments have been explored both in Rochester and the rest of the country.
Guaranteed Basic Income vs. Universal Basic Income
The program differs slightly from the concept of universal basic income, which, true to its name, supplements the income for all — regardless of financial status.
Businessman Andrew Yang championed UBI during his 2020 presidential campaign, speaking in Rochester in 2021 alongside NY Senator Jeremy Cooney for a UBI pilot program.
The legislation, bill S6361 has remained in committee, and is not currently scheduled on the floor calendar.
“It’s […] going to be a pilot that grows into a magnificent example of what government can do when we get our heads on straight,” then-City Council President Loretta Scott said at the time of passing.
Rev. Brown said that the program’s details will be publicly announced alongside the formal launch this spring.