PORTLAND, Ore. — If passed a proposed bill in Oregon would introduce the first statewide Basic Universal Income pilot program by giving $1,000 a month to people who are homeless and/or low-income.
Senate Bill 603 would appropriate $ 25 million from the state's general fund to create the People's Housing Assistance Fund Demonstration Program, administered by the Department of Human Services.
The fund would provide two years' worth of $1,000 monthly payments to individuals who are experiencing homelessness, are at risk of homelessness, are severely rent burdened, or earn at or below 60 percent of the area median income.
The $1,000 payments could be used however recipients choose, but proponents say they expect the majority of the money to be used on rent, emergency expenses, food, childcare, or other goods/services the recipient wants.
"I am low income and I have to say that it is very very difficult to make ends meet especially on a very small budget," said Florence resident, Charene Reavis during a public hearing for the bill.
Reavis is on the steering committee for Residents Organizing for Change (ROC), a group of organizations and residents advocating for policy and housing solutions in Oregon.
"When I was coming into housing I had to borrow money for my rent, deposit and it took me almost a year to recover from everything I had to do to just to move in," she said.
Proponents cite a recent Sandford study that analyzes data collected from 20 Basic Income pilot programs run in cities throughout the US. The research found that most recipients of basic income were people of color and single mothers and that most of the money was spent on housing and basic needs.
The measure would call on Portland State University to study the impacts the payments have on recipients' status and how the money is spent. Results would be reported to the legislature before the 2024 session.
"I think the end game is to really create a permanent program," said Rebekah Markillie a member of ROC.
Though all testimony at the Public hearing was in favor of the bill testimony submitted in writing as of Monday evening, was primarily opposing the measure.
"I just see this as another giveaway and if they are addicted to drugs or alcohol I believe that is where the money will get spent," said Kathy Coehlo.
A similar program was rolled out in Vancouver B.C. in Canada in 2018, with homeless participants receiving $7500 each.
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The "New Leaf Project" report found that the program had definite success rates in participants moving into stable housing, and even utilizing the cash for savings.
“We saw that people very quickly moved into housing, between one and three months,” said Claire Williams, the founder of the project. “We saw that people had increased food security, which is incredible. People are getting three square meals a day.”
A public hearing for the People's Housing Assistance Fund Demonstration Program was held on February 27, where the House Committee on Housing and Homelessness heard testimonies about the bill.
**EDITOR'S NOTE** An earlier version of this story indicated that payments would be oriented toward BIPOC communities. This statement, made in error, has since been corrected and was based on a research portion of the bill that indicated BIPOC communities have been the target of and have benefitted from similar programs.