Newark’s Guaranteed Income pilot program, to be announced today, has been talked about for decades

City aims to eventually provide up to 400 with monthly check for two years — then study impact and potentially expand program

File photo Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, at right, during a news conference.

The idea of providing a guaranteed income picked up interest and enthusiasm during protests regarding racial equity last summer. The concept, however, has been around for decades.

When Newark Mayor Ras Baraka announces details Monday afternoon for a pilot program on guaranteed income the city hopes eventually will provide approximately 400 Newark residents with a guaranteed monthly check — no strings attached — he will be discussing a concept that has been talked about since the civil rights riots shook Newark and other American cities in 1967.

Then, under a similar backdrop of civil unrest and racial reckoning, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called for guaranteed income as the simplest and most effective solution to poverty.

Newark has been looking at the idea since 2019, when the Newark Guaranteed Income Task Force was formed to explore how a guaranteed income — regular, unrestricted infusions of cash — might provide an effective solution to meeting the financial security needs of Newark residents.

The task force is headed by Kevin Callaghan, the mayor’s philanthropic liaison, and program manager Hawwa Muhammad. It is made up of 33 organizations across Newark and New Jersey that came together for one year to map out how a guaranteed income pilot could be carried out in Newark. This yearlong investigation led to a key set of recommendations about how Newark should shape its guaranteed income pilot.

Here’s how it will work:

  • The program will start with a cohort of 30 randomly selected Newark residents;
  • The two-year program aims to gradually increase to up to 400 residents;
  • Those selected must be at least 18 and have an income level that is 200% below the federal poverty limit;
  • The amount of income those selected will receive has not been announced;
  • The program has identified $2.2 million in private funds to date, led by the Victoria Foundation, to finance the pilot.

Newark officials said this pilot program will be layered on top of other economic interventions the city is putting forward to promote financial security.

At the end of the pilot, Newark officials will review findings from the results and to determine if they want to push for the expansion of a guaranteed income policy at the state and federal levels.

Baraka, Muhammad, Craig Drinkard — the co-executive officer of the Victoria Foundation — and some members of the first cohort will discuss the program at 1 p.m. Monday at City Hall.

The initiative is part of the Newark Movement for Economic Equity and is being run in partnership with Mayors for a Guaranteed Income, a group that was founded last June. MGI is a coalition of mayors who are advocating for a guaranteed income. The city of Newark was one of the first cities to join the MGI network.

Newark’s guaranteed income pilot program also will serve as a research study that will explore the impacts of providing residents with a guaranteed income.

The program is different from the typical social safety net program, including Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Medicaid (just to name a few). Unlike these programs, guaranteed income provides continuous and unconditional cash transfers to individuals or households. Guaranteed income is generally targeted, whereas universal basic income is meant to go to everyone.