As the father of two young kids, I know how expensive raising children can be. Child care, co-pays for doctor’s appointments, new clothes when they go through growth spurts — not to mention the basics of housing, food, and utilities for a family of four. My wife and I both earn a decent living, and still the worry of providing for our son and daughter will always be a part of parenting.
That feeling likely started with my own upbringing – growing up, I watched my single mom work herself to exhaustion to provide for her family. But, despite her unparalleled work ethic, she was never able to escape the limits of a poverty-wage life. As a parent now, I have a new appreciation for just how devastating the situation must have been for her.
Knowing firsthand the effects of economic insecurity on kids and their parents, I was determined to use the boldest tools at my disposal to fight poverty in my hometown when I was elected mayor of Stockton, California.
That’s why I implemented the country’s first mayor-led guaranteed income program, the Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration (SEED). For two years, 125 residents in the city– where nearly a quarter of the city lives below the poverty line– received $500 a month that they were able to use however they saw fit.
Recipients kept working and had less financial volatility and increased physical health. They reported being able to breathe, relieved of the toxic stress of wondering if the next trip to the grocery store would trigger an overdraft fee. I was especially struck by the non-financial benefits, the small things that make up a big life like the dad who didn’t know his kids could swim until he was finally able to afford to take an afternoon off and go to the community pool with them.
Word of the program spread, and interest spiked as the COVID pandemic ravaged communities across the country. From SEED grew Mayors and Counties for a Guaranteed Income, a national network of local leaders with more than 120 members and more than 40 pilots in cities from Madison, WI to Providence, RI.
All together, pilots launched by MGI and CGI will deliver more than $210 million in direct, unconditional relief to everyday Americans. Data from across the programs shows that the support is going where it’s most needed — to people of color who were already dealing with a soaring income gap even before the extra financial toll of the pandemic.
As we celebrate Father’s Day, the findings from these programs give us a roadmap for how we can meaningfully support fathers — particularly Black fathers facing a double bind of an income and wealth gap — through economic policy.
Deontrez, a father in Atlanta, used his guaranteed income to pay for his baby daughter’s diapers and to take his Commercial Driver’s License test, which helped him get a better job to earn more for his family. San Diego dad Kelvin was able to offset an increase in his rent during the pandemic with his payments, ensuring his three daughters had a safe place to live and groceries in the fridge. Meanwhile, Louisville dad and entrepreneur Davon used his guaranteed income to expand his haircutting business, building a long-term stream of income. Recipients Deontrez, Kelvin, and Davon are featured in a new national documentary on guaranteed income.
These stories echo the tremendous benefits we saw with the Child Tax Credit, which essentially functioned as a guaranteed income for nearly every parent in America during its expansion in 2021. We saw cuts in child poverty in record time, and parents reported spending the money on basic needs for their kids.
The issue of economic insecurity is pervasive, and it does not have a party. Every day, folks are working and doing their part to be part of the social contract — yet they are still falling short. This Father’s Day, let’s reverse course and invest in our fathers and families through a guaranteed income.