A group of randomly selected, extremely low income families in Mountain View will soon have a chance to be a part of the city’s first universal basic income pilot program. Those selected will receive direct cash payments every month for the next two years.
The application period for the program, called Elevate MV, opens Sept. 16 at 8 a.m. and will run through midnight on Sunday, Sept. 25, the city announced in a statement and at a Sept. 15 press conference. People can apply online here.
“This is a two year long pilot program that will give direct cash payments with no strings attached of $500 a month to 166 families in Mountain View,” said City Manager Kimbra McCarthy at the press conference. “... They will have autonomy and flexibility to spend the money as they choose, so they can manage their own finances based on their own needs.”
Elevate MV applicants must be Mountain View residents with an income of 30% of the area median income or less to qualify, and must be parents or custodial caregivers to at least one child or pregnant at the time of application. For example, a family of four would have to make $50,550 or less per year to qualify for the pilot, said Mayor Lucas Ramirez at the event. Immigration status or housing situation are not factors for eligibility.
The city will then randomly select the 166 families to participate in the program with the help of University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Guaranteed Income Research, which will control and keep secure all the data for the program. The city expects the first payments to hit sometime in December.
“These are online applications only, however, we know that this might be tough for some people and so that’s why we have set up application support hubs at various locations throughout the city,” McCarthy said. “This includes our library, our community center, and we’re going to be providing hands-on support at those hubs in four languages: English, Spanish, Chinese and Russian.”
Mayor Ramirez said at the event that Elevate MV is about lifting Mountain View families up and out of poverty. He thanked Councilmember Margaret Abe-Koga for first bringing the idea to the council’s attention.
“The cost of living in Mountain View is distressingly high,” Ramirez said. “... According to the 2020 American Community Survey, 6.5% of our city’s residents live in poverty. With inflation exacerbating financial hardship, our Elevate MV guaranteed basic income pilot program will provide desperately needed relief for many extremely low income families in our community.”
California state legislators Josh Becker and Marc Berman were both present at the event and commended the city for getting the pilot program off the ground.
“When we give low-income people the money themselves, they will figure out, based on their own experience, how to use it to lift themselves out of poverty,” Becker said.
City manager McCarthy said the city will work with applicants to help them provide documentation that they live in Mountain View. Qualified applicants who are living in their vehicles without a permanent address are fully eligible to apply.
“The great partnership that we have with the Community Services Agency and some of our lived experience advisors as well as some of our other partners, we know very well who a lot of the residents are that live in oversized vehicles,” McCarthy said. “We will do our best to be very flexible and work with those people who may not have a specific address but that we do know are residents of Mountain View.”
Paula Pérez, co-founder of the Mountain View Solidarity Fund, served as a lived experience advisor as the city developed the Elevate MV program.
“I am in direct contact with our community, and that allows me to hear and know these experiences very closely,” Perez said through a translator at the event. “I wanted to be in this group to let people know what are the most effective ways to reach out to the community. We also wanted our experiences to be taken into account.”
Once the two-year pilot program concludes, the council will assess at that time if the pilot program might continue, McCarthy said.
“But right now, it really is about getting the money into the hands of the people that need it and over the next two years, we’re really going to study the positive effects of that and how it really helps lift people out of poverty,” she said.