Rochester Mayor-Elect Malik Evans hopes to expand universal basic income pilot program

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Rochester could become the latest city to participate in a universal basic income pilot program.

In one of her last acts as mayor, Lovely Warren submitted legislation to create a pilot program to give needy families a guaranteed basic income. Now, Mayor-elect Malik Evans said he wants to make it happen, but with some changes.

“I think that there will be a pilot. I think that we still have a lot of work to do, the devil is in the detail,” Evans said.

Evans is on board with offering some type of universal basic income.

“I am supportive of universal basic income because it could allow for people to be lifted out of poverty. It’s true and some people say ‘Oh you are just giving people money, they are going to waste it.’ When you look at the data a lot of people pay down their debt, they save and they use those funds to be able to help themselves financially,” Evans said.

Warren said the pilot program she proposed would provide $500 a month for 175 city families in need and ideally, another 175 families would be chosen for the program in the second year, but Evans wants to see that number a little higher, possibly to 1,000 households.

“I will continue my private conversations with external providers, philanthropy, business to see how they also could help support in the event we want to ramp it up which is what I would like to do,” Evans said. “In order to get to a larger number, it will take a private, public philanthropic partnership.”

Warren proposed using more than $2 million the city received from the American Rescue Plan and Evans said he hopes to come back with an amendment in the next couple of months that would expand the program, urging patience because there’s a lot of work to do.

“People have to be patient with us,” Evans said. “That’s what I’m going to say because if we want to do more we’re going to have to also get private support, we may have to go back to council if we want more but the conversations will start and we will see how that will work."

As of now, those who would qualify would be households with incomes at or below 200% of the federal poverty level, 18 years of age or older and have lived in Rochester for at least one year.

Tuesday evening City Council voted unanimously to approve Mayor Warren’s original plan.