Arlington’s Guarantee: Next Steps

Image Arlington’s Guarantee: Next Steps

The data and lessons learned from Arlington’s Guarantee and other pilots are being used to inform national policy that would create a federal income floor under which no one in our country can fall. Arlington Community Foundation and Arlington County are part of the growing national Guaranteed Income Community of Practice (GICP). Going into 2024, there are now 144 pilots in 41 states across the US.

The 1000+ members in the community of practice include legislators, researchers, pilot implementers, policy advocates, funders, and local and state governments. Most recently, HUD has joined to explore how the government can deploy the approaches used in the pilots to shift housing voucher systems to direct cash systems and to reduce layers of red tape. The University of Pennsylvania’s  Center for Guaranteed Income Research is a leader in pilot evaluations, and the GICP resource library has 31 published pilot evaluations

In 2020 and 2021, economic and welfare reform ideas that had been debated for years were picked up and implemented in a matter of weeks in response to the pandemic– eviction moratoriums, pausing student debt, and the monthly child tax credit payments.  These pandemic supports offered glimmers of what a more equitable economy could look like if they made it into the mainstream. The largest effective trial of guaranteed income to date was the pandemic-era expanded child tax credit disbursed to millions of households by the US Treasury from July to December 2021. During this six-month period, US childhood poverty levels plummeted by 46%. The monthly cash came with no strings attached, so families could use the money for what they needed most. There were zero negative impacts on labor market participation by recipients. Unfortunately, this transformative policy was allowed to lapse due to political quagmire in 2022, and childhood poverty has returned to prior levels.

In fall 2023, Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), announced the reintroduction of the Guaranteed Income Pilot Program Act, legislation that would test the viability of a federally funded income support program to keep American families from experiencing lasting poverty from a single unexpected crisis. Her office explained: the COVID crisis exposed the fragility of our economy … At the same time, it demonstrated the real and meaningful ability of federal and state programs to keep Americans out of poverty.

The GICP recently put out a ten year Blueprint to get to the ultimate goal of federal cash investment in people, delivered on a predictable and regular basis without burdensome administrative requirements, while respecting people’s ability to know what they need most.

States have an opportunity to implement large scale, publicly funded programs of their own that will provide essential data and experience toward the realization of a federal program. California and Illinois, for example, have large publicly-funded programs.  In addition, states are building out their child tax credits (CTCs) and/or earned income tax credit (EITC) policies to get regular cash to low-income households. As of the end of 2023,18 states have passed policies that improved, expanded, or created a CTC or EITC. Many states added provisions to ensure tax credits are accessible for all families–including children of immigrants- and are distributed periodically throughout the year.

Here in Arlington and in Virginia

In addition to Arlington’s Guarantee, there are pilots underway in three other locations in Virginia–Richmond, Alexandria, and Fairfax County.

In 2023, Arlington County board members joined Counties and Mayors for a Guaranteed Income alongside 130 communities and 145 US mayors and elected county officials who are advocating for federal and state governments to codify unconditional cash with no strings attached to create an income floor for our very low-income neighbors.  

In the near term, Arlington Community Foundation is pressing for adoption by Virginia of expanded child tax credits.  Delegate Kathy Tran has put forth a bill that provides for a modest one-time child tax credit. The Foundation hopes that this is a first step towards an expanded, monthly credit.  In fall 2023, the Foundation engaged with several Richmond legislators and organizing groups and the national Economic Security Project to advocate for more robust monthly child tax credits in Virginia that can be transformative for families in poverty in the coming years.

What can you do next?
See the countless barriers low-income Arlingtonians face as they try to earn more, in the recently-updated Benefits Cliff video. Read more about the Community Foundation’s Economic Mobility Initiatives, designed to test strategies that prevent displacement of our lowest income neighbors. Watch highlights from the Community Foundation event Building a Human Rights Economy, featuring renowned economist Dr. Darrick Hamilton.