As clergy, we understand how COVID-19 tested our communities’ resolve in more ways than one. Beyond the horrendous loss of life and the separation each of us endured from our family, friends, our faith communities, many have suffered financially, struggling through the harshest economic conditions in a generation. The various communities that make up our city of Alexandria have each been affected by the pandemic in different ways, and our most vulnerable populations -- workers who rely on low-wage or part-time jobs, and especially communities of color -- have borne the most considerable burden over the last 15 months. Because of this reality, it is imperative that while we are discussing programs to hasten economic recovery, we ultimately implement programs that will enable a comprehensive recovery.
On July 6, Alexandria’s City Council will vote on how our city plans to use the first half of the $59.4 million we received as part of the American Rescue Plan Act. These funds will transform the city in helping us work to return to normalcy. Still, they also represent an incredible opportunity to change what “normal” is for some of the hardest-working members of our community. One of the proposals being considered by our City Council is a Guaranteed Basic Income pilot program. This program would put $500 per month directly into the hands of 150 families in Alexandria. It would also support each participant with case management to help them plan, set goals, and make the most out of the program.
Guaranteed Basic Income (GBI) has recently gained national recognition through high-profile trials in Stockton, California and Newark, New Jersey. Presidential candidates spoke about it on the campaign trail, and most Americans have by now received direct stimulus payments in the form of COVID-19 relief program stimulus checks. This means that there is current and pertinent data that shows what a program like this can do for families and a community.
When a Guaranteed Basic Income or stimulus program is directed at lower-income workers, they are more likely to spend that money quickly within their community. For example, this program would inject $1.8 million into our local families and businesses over two years. As a result, the Guaranteed Basic Income program would also significantly help small businesses and our local economy. According to past trials, participants use this money to build a stronger economic foundation, with participants being twice as likely to find a full-time job than non-participants. There are also numerous benefits to the community as a whole, including a reduction in crime, increased mental and physical health, and the long-term benefit of having a resilient community capable of withstanding rough waters.
The City Council meeting on July 6 poses an incredible opportunity for the City of Alexandria. We in the faith community have seen how hard the working people of Alexandria have had it over the last 15 months. We need to ensure that recovery acknowledges the disparity in hardship faced among our city's diverse communities. Guaranteed Basic Income will bring to the city of Alexandria a swift, effective, resilient, and just economic recovery, while strengthening our local economy. Thus, we strongly urge the City Council to fund this program fully.
David Spinrad, Senior Rabbi
Beth El Hebrew Congregation
Quardricos Driskell, Senior Pastor
Beulah Baptist Church