Convening #9 – The State of the States


Objectives & Outcomes

  • What is the landscape and what opportunities exist for state-level engagement with guaranteed income?

  • How can GICP members encourage state guaranteed income movement?

What do we want to get out of this?

  • Identifying opportunities and encouraging GICP member engagement with state legislatures

Pre-Reading & Related Resources


Opening Remarks: Learning from the Local

Councilmember Johana Bencomo, Las Cruces, NM

As a nonprofit working with statewide partners on economic relief for community members who have been excluded, NM CAFé has built momentum for conversations with state legislators about guaranteed income as a policy solution to combat poverty.

ARPA – Las Cruces received $24.4M from ARPA and $10.4M was given back to the community for economic relief efforts. Community organizations are submitting proposals for $250,000-$2M to fund transformational projects led by trusted community partners. Las Cruces is very close to funding a guaranteed basic income pilot with public dollars from ARPA. The list of final projects will come to council before the end of the year.

Direct cash payments – NM CAFé and statewide partners formed a coalition to get New Mexico to financially support thousands of immigrant families that are excluded from federal stimulus payments and local safety net programs. Recovery for this group is going to be longer than the general population’s recovery. Through the legislative process and CARES Act, they were able to win $10M for direct cash payments for thousands of immigrant New Mexican families.

Educating Policymakers – The coalition is working to tell a story about what it means to provide economic relief without strings attached. Poverty is a policy choice and there is a path we can take to counter narratives that are used to justify bad policy. A lot of the work with legislators is myth-busting to prove direct cash assistance works and is grounded in data and history. There is nothing radical about making sure that people have their needs met; this is an important conversation to keep pushing in order to lead Congress to adopt guaranteed income as a viable solution. The NM Coalition has worked to educate the NM Legislature, leading to a high profile committee hearing on the issue.

State Legislative Opportunities

DC, Not a State but Doing the Work

Melody Webb, Executive Director Mother’s Outreach Network and Chair of the DC Guaranteed Income Coalition: 

EITC – DC has the most generous Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) in the nation. And this year, the city council both increased the local match of the federal EITC to 40% and made the payments monthly, functioning as a guaranteed income. Over the next few years, the match will grow to 100% of the federal EITC.

Wealth-building – DC is a leader with its new child wealth-building program: baby bonds. It provides eligible children with savings of up to $1000 a year for them to access when turning 18 years old.

GI – A new guaranteed income program that is publicly funded. It provides $1.5M in funding from ARPA for pilot programs by nonprofit organizations. They are working on increasing the funding in the next fiscal year and making GI permanent.

How They Got Here – The GI activism has led DC to this moment; they began petition drives last year to engage the mayor and created the space for income justice. The movement led the city council to hold a hearing and put the new GI fund in place.

Supporting the Community – The Mother’s Outreach Network is hosting advisory clinics to ensure that people are taking advantage of the child tax credit and the EITC increase

Key TakeawayBuild from the ground up. Engage the community city-wide, particularly  those living in poverty, and the city council. Have conversations and think about what fits your communities best and what your end goals are.

CA, Implementing Big Ideas

Jennifer Hernandez, Deputy Director, Family Engagement & Empowerment Division at the California Department of Social Services, and Julianna Vignalats, Assistant Deputy Director, Research, Automation, and Data Division, California Department of Social Services

Population – Their GI program will lie in the Family Engagement and Empowerment Division (FEED) within the CA Department of Social Services. This one-time investment of $35M from the general budget is helping foster youth that are aging out of the system and pregnant individuals. Thinking about what they learned from Stockton’s SEED program and programs like it, they helped reinforce the targeting of these two populations.

Benefits Cliff – Unconditional support is critical. The participants’ only requirement is receiving benefits counseling; this is to ensure that the program does no harm and help participants make informed decisions. Participants are also aware of the consequences if they are unable to exempt that income. FEED administers TANF and SNAP, so they now have a process in place to potentially waive the income from the GI program for eligibility purposes.

Timeline – This program is largely being shaped by a stakeholder process. After the budget was signed in July, they initiated the process in August. They recently launched a survey to inform what the key decision points are for potential applicants. The ultimate goal is to launch a request for evaluation and a request for proposals for GI pilots before 2022. They would reward the funds in the spring of 2022.

Research – Because it is still very early, they do not know what the program will look like. They are releasing a RFI soon to solicit a state-wide evaluator who will inform and lead the evaluation, data, and research work with all of the local pilot programs. They imagine the evaluation having two components: an implementation evaluation (the extent to which local programs operate with fidelity to the original program design) and an impact evaluation (the effects of GI on recipient outcomes). The CA Department of Social Services is particularly interested in the interaction between GI and other social safety net benefits. They also plan for the impact evaluation to help fill any gaps in the existing research about GI.

Key Takeaway – FEED chose to use the general fund because it would hopefully allow them to exempt some of that income. Think about doing good without doing harm and the impact on families and individuals, which couldn’t have happened without stakeholder engagement.

WA: Centering Racial Equity

Lori Pfingst, Senior Director of the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services

Momentum – The movement behind basic income in WA is a product of good intention and good timing. Governor Inslee formed the Poverty Reduction Work Group four years ago, which created space out of the recognition that no one was talking about the root causes of poverty. That work group was led by a twenty-two-member steering committee composed of people in communities that have been historically excluded from well-being. The group created eight strategies and sixty recommendations to be implemented over the next ten years to improve the lives of people in the state in a way that achieves equity.

GI Pilot – Two of the main recommendations from the workgroup include focusing on the role that unconditional cash plays and creating a guaranteed income pilot. They were fortunate to have the legislature direct the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) to conduct the pilot in collaboration with the poverty reduction workgroup. They have convened a steering committee to guide them in the basic income pilot because there are many pieces to put together. After learning from all the income work that has been done, they are thinking about what a state-level policy could be and how to center those who would benefit the most from such a policy.

Racial Equity – They want this program to be robust, provide dignity, and last long enough so people receive the full benefit of economic stability. They are still in the early stages and are working with legislators on potential bills that could support the pilot coming from this work. For them, it is important to note being mindful about how this program is constructed in equity and allows people to reach their full potential.

Key TakeawayEngage the people who stand to benefit the most from the prospective policies. When they are sitting next to you at the table, it’s hard to judge them. Balance the benefit and where it needs to go the most and avoid some onerous requirements. Listen intentionally and let go of assumptions in order to center the values of people and communities to structure the policy.

All speakers agreed it was necessary to develop an ecosystem of support. Basic income needs to be part of a larger suite of economic justice policies, which we need to keep fighting for. Think about how your state can implement a basic income policy that can be paired with other policies to increase prosperity for all. The number of population-based GI pilots have proven that there is a connection to other social needs. GI has been a great experiment across the country in linking other social service needs to increase financial resources for people. This is an opportunity to help inform future conversations and it starts with changing the narrative. GI is one step in that direction, but it is not the end. Part of their research agenda is studying the interaction of what GI can look like with the different social safety net benefits moving forward.


Federal Legislative Working Group

Mara Heneghan

The Federal Legislative Working Group initially devised a strategy with a focus on how to protect public benefits through federal legislation instead of pilot by pilot or state by state. They conducted research for most of the summer and are currently aligned on solutions. Now they are creating advocacy and implementation strategies like the State Guide and materials to support strategy execution. The key learnings have been figuring out what needs to happen for some of the safety net benefits to be protected. The group has not received any guidance from federal agencies about the impact of GI payments on benefits.

State Guide on Guaranteed Income

Nolan Downey, Shriver Center

The Shriver Center houses Chicago’s legal impact network, which is composed of 36 unrestricted statewide, multi-issue, anti-poverty organizations in 33 states. The Shriver Center is developing a resource to assist advocates in pursuing a GI, particularly programs at the state-level that are going to be permanent, state-wide, and publicly funded. The resource frames GI in the opportunity that state governments have to validate and push GI initiatives closer to the ideal of a permanent federal program. It will also explain state implementation options and social safety net implications. Other considerations will include sources of public funding, potentially complementary policies to build wealth, and opportunities to build racial equity. The Center is hoping to release this resource in  January 2022.

Child Tax Credit Update

Madeline Neighly, Economic Security Project

On Friday, November 5th, the House voted to pass the infrastructure bill and the rule necessary to allow a vote on Build Back Better, which includes the child tax credit (CTC). We continue to face anti-immigrant attacks to exclude immigrant children and families from receiving the CTC. We need to continue building support for permanent full refundability, which allows the CTC to function as a guaranteed income for families with children. We need the one-year expansion for the extended amount of CTC under the American Rescule Plan and the monthly payments, and we need to ensure that Dreamers and ITIN filers are not left hind. Another CTC check goes out on November 15th and we need to let lawmakers know these checks are changing lives. Madeline will be putting information together to send out to engage on social media.


The next convening for the Guaranteed Income Community of Practice will be held on December 14th at 1 PM ET.