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City Of Hudson Advances Universal Basic Income Trial With Andrew Yang’s Backing


Former presidential candidate Andrew Yang and Hudson Mayor Kamal Johnson have launched a Universal Basic Income pilot program in the city.

The Spark of Hudson partnered with Yang's Humanity Forward organization to implement the pilot program, which will provide $500 to 25 recipients a month over the course of five years. Yang says applications were open to anyone living in Hudson earning less than than $35,000 a year. According to U.S. Census data, the median household income in Hudson is $35,153.

"We are going to make an enormous difference, we hope not just in the lives of those 25 individuals, but really spark the community in a positive way."

The former Democratic presidential candidate sees Hudson with its 6000 residents as "a perfect environment for this kind of trial."

"This is going to be perhaps the longest universal-based income trial in the country operating right now."

Johnson is excited to be part of a history-making initiative.

"Application phase closed Sunday, so now people will be notified at the end of this week, which is extremely exciting. So they'll start the on-boarding process and get all the information on wrap-around services and setting up bank accounts and they also will have opportunities to find out about each other and what other networks they can use to kind of help them along this financial literacy kind of progress."

Yang says successful applicants will be selected by a lottery system.

"Someone you know is going to be a participant in this, I just about guarantee. It might as well be you. I mean, who the heck wants to know the person when you can be the person?"

Yang adds the concept of providing all citizens with a guaranteed income is an idea that has been kicking around for decades.

"It almost became law under Nixon. Milton Friedman, the economist who most people regard as fairly conservative, was for it. So there's a very rich history behind Universal Basic Income, and I'm so glad that I helped introduce it to more Americans right as we needed it. Right now because of the pandemic, millions of Americans are struggling, and a majority of Americans believe we need Universal Basic Income in this country right now, in perpetuity. And they are correct. So I'm not one to wait for Congress to get its act together, so we need to demonstrate that Universal Basic Income would improve the lives of the vast majority of Americans, and that's what this trial is in part about."

Johnson says the UBI program represents the kind of innovation the country should be taking a closer look at.

"To be at the helm of this happening in Hudson is exciting for myself but also exciting for the city. I think people are tired of the same old politics. "

Johnson and Yang expect the UBI dollars will stay and circulate within the local economy. The five-year experiment will be closely watched by several mayors of small cities across the country.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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