“A helping hand”: Gary hopes to continue the guaranteed income program | News from Gary

Gary City Council will vote on an ordinance that would extend the Guaranteed Income Program on February 15.

John J. Watkins, Dossier, The Times

GARY— Like millions around the world, when the pandemic hit, Burgess Peoples lost their jobs.

Feeling “stripped” financially, she began to budget her money and look for work. One day, she came across an article about the Guaranteed Income Validation, or GIVE, effort championed by former Stockton, Calif. Mayor Michael Tubbs. Tubbs’ program, which gave some residents $500 a month, has been replicated in cities across the country. Peoples was inspired and pitched the idea to Mayor Gary Jerome Prince who “jumped” at the chance.

“This program has been a whirlwind of excitement for me because I know what it’s like to be where they are,” Peoples said, reflecting on her experience as a young mother trying to live off unemployment there. at 20 years.

Peoples, program executive director Gary GIVE, said the city launched the pilot program last spring using $500,000 in seed money from the federal organization, Mayors for Guaranteed Income. A survey was sent to 4,000 residents and, from the responses, 125 people were chosen to participate, receiving $500 per month for 12 months.

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GIVE ran out of funding in December 2021, and an order allocating $400,000 to fund the remaining six months of the program was discussed at a ways and means committee meeting on Tuesday. The ordinance will be voted on at the city council meeting on February 15.

Without the additional funding, “the program risks ending forever,” Prince said at the ways and means meeting.

After the pilot, the city will present the results to the federal government in hopes that the program will be implemented nationwide. Gary is the first city in Indiana to implement GIVE, but Peoples said it is working with other cities in the area that have expressed interest, such as Hammond, Portage and Hobart.

After just six months of the program, the results show that “in short, it works,” Prince said. About 37% of participants returned to work or kept a job, 24% opened bank accounts, 4% started a new business and 2.4% enrolled in higher education.

“They’re using those dollars to change their history or to rewrite their history,” Peoples said. “I wanted to be able to offer tangible resources, resources that can actually help…because their goal is to never look back on poverty.”

Deputy Mayor Trent McCain explained that GIVE funds are “a helping hand, not a handout”.

“You can’t retire on $500 a month, but that’s just a little extra help,” McCain said. “In a town like Gary where we have the highest unemployment rate in the state and the lowest median income in the state, … that could be the difference between buying textbooks and buying a new set of tires. .”

To ensure participants thrive after the 12-month program, the city has also partnered with Centier Bank to offer financial literacy classes. The virtual lessons were distributed to participants once a month, covering everything from how to build credit to options when borrowing money.

Peoples said 64% of participants took part in literacy classes. GIVE also has a Wealth Series starting in March. Open to all Gary residents, the series will be online and will deal with family wealth, community wealth and generational wealth.

“I want them to know that money isn’t something you have to ask for, it’s something you have to manage,” Peoples said. “You can’t tell someone to get out of poverty without giving them the tools.”

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