To the editor:
The recently printed letter in last week’s edition of the Times, “ARISE program is flawed,” was itself flawed in its mischaracterizations of Alexandria’s universal basic income pilot study. Although a growing body of evidence already shows that putting money into the pockets of those who need it is an effective anti-poverty measure, many jurisdictions, including our own, are trying their hands at replicating that research locally – a commendable use of American Rescue Plan Act funds. The writer of the earlier letter casts aspersions on the pilot because applicants are “randomly selected.” In fact, applicants must meet household income criteria, or less than 50% area median income. This is how randomized controlled studies are conducted; the researchers will also be randomly selecting families who will not receive the funds in order to measure the program’s impacts.
In the book ‘$2 Per Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America,’ social scientists Kathryn J. Edin of Johns Hopkins University and H. Luke Shaefer of the University of Michigan document the increasing number of Americans living in extreme poverty. They also show that, when Americans are able to obtain cash welfare, they use that money to create housing stability for themselves and their families – stability that helps them keep a steady job and to get off of welfare. The implication that no strings attached funds will be spent frivolously is not borne out by research.
The increase in extreme poverty in America is well-documented. Hopefully this basic income pilot will become a permanent investment in our community.
-Shira Eller and Jonathan Krall, Alexandria